At the end of regulation in Thursday's season-opener for the Woodburn boys soccer team against the visiting North Marion Huskies, the score read the same as their state championship match nine months earlier.
Bulldogs 2, Huskies 0.
In many ways, the game was similar to that match. Woodburn took the early lead and dominated possession of the ball, while North Marion pushed back after going down to make successful offensive attacks in the second half.
However, unlike last year's game between two battle-tested teams, last week's contest featured many new faces, each trying to figure out where they fit in the 2019 season.
"This is kind of the new varsity team for this year," Woodburn head coach Leroy Sanchez said. "They have the nerves going on."
The Bulldogs, in particular, are working to put this year's team together and see where all the pieces fit. Unlike last year's team that featured a senior-heavy class, this year's program is a mix of returning core players, upcoming JV players and transfers just entering the program.
Add in the new playing surface (speeding up the pace of the game), and it created a lot of variables for the Bulldogs to account for in their first game of the season.
"I think for us, it's the chemistry," Sanchez said. "The boys being able to have a second sense to each other and just knowing the movements and becoming innate, and that's really what we were looking for."
That didn't stop the Bulldogs from putting North Marion on the defensive from the opening whistle. Woodburn worked to establish control of the game immediately. Within the first five minutes of the game, the Bulldogs scored on a goal from senior forward Kevin Flores, who transferred to the Bulldogs for his senior year after playing his first three seasons at nearby Gervais High School.
Woodburn continued to control the game throughout the first half, keeping the Huskies from establishing a rhythm. The Bulldogs put their second notch on the scoreboard on a corner kick in the 25th minute when senior Riley Menezes rose above the fray and struck the ball off his head into the left corner of the net to bring the game to its final margin of victory.
Following the halftime break, North Marion began to get more comfortable against Woodburn's high-pressure offense and began to push back more. Seniors Barsilay Carrillo and Ronaldo Gonzalez, as well as junior Josue Gabriel, combined to get five shots on goal and worked to establish the Huskies' offense.
Overall it left both teams with a similar feeling — not a bad showing with plenty to improve on.
"At times we didn't play as well, and there were times where you see the glimpses that this is the style of soccer that we play," Sanchez said. "We got the W, and just wanted to play a little more consistent."
Of particular importance for Woodburn was the shut out. The Bulldogs ended last year's playoff run by holding their final four opponents scoreless. The 2018 team surrendered just four goals total all season, and Sanchez has challenged his team to beat that this year and see how long the team can go before surrendering a goal.
"The boys came out and got the W with zero goals against and did what we needed to do," Sanchez said. "They kind of knew it starts now and every game is on the line."
It also wasn't lost on the home team that the crowd gathered on Thursday night was much bigger than a typical Woodburn regular-season game. A combination of the two nearby schools, the state title rematch and the first official game on the Bulldogs' newly revamped athletic facilities, packed the grandstands and had patrons lining the fence to watch the game.
"The boys were excited to see that kind of crowd," Sanchez said. "When the boys were first warming up about 45 minutes before the game, it went from empty stands while they were warming up, then all of a sudden the stands were full and people lining up on the fence that were there. I made that a point as well, give the fans a good show."
For North Marion, it was the second defending state champion the team had faced in three days. The Huskies opened the season on Sept. 3 in a 6-1 loss against 3A/2A/1A powerhouse Catlin Gabel, which has been to three consecutive title games, winning in 2016 and 2018.
The Huskies (0-2) continue their road-heavy start to the season this week when they travel to Beaverton on Thursday to take on the Valley Catholic Knights (2-0), currently ranked No. 1 in the OSAA standings after the first week of the season.
Woodburn (1-0) was scheduled to remain at home for their league opener against Sweet Home (0-1) on Tuesday, before going up against former 5A rival Hood River Valley on the road on Thursday.
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