Perros! Perros! Perros!
The Woodburn boys soccer team may have proven again and again during the past decade that the capital of mid-valley soccer in Oregon lies squarely at Woodburn High School, but that doesn't mean winning ever gets old.
After defeating the Stayton Eagles 1-0 in the 2019 4A Boys Soccer State Championship on Saturday at Liberty High School, the Bulldogs celebrated with the kind of enthusiasm that easily could be mistaken for the team's first state title.
"I am ecstatic, I feel blessed," head coach Leroy Sanchez said. "These boys, they work hard. It means everything."
Of course, for many of the players, it is their first championship. The Bulldogs may have won their fourth straight trophy and seventh in the past decade, but the cost of the team's success is that many players only get one or two seasons on the varsity team.
For Woodburn senior Kevin Flores, who spent the first three seasons of his high school career playing down the road at Gervais High School, this was his last opportunity to go out a champion.
"I did it for both cities," Flores said. "It's spectacular. This was my goal since forever. I always needed to get this. One day I needed to get it, and here I am."
But for a select few who have shown the skill and dedication to make the roster as freshmen or sophomores, the feeling of bringing home a new state title trophy each fall is something that never gets old. Each season brings in a new team with new players and new dynamics, and a fresh crop of seniors seeking to go out in a blaze of glory.
"Every single year, Woodburn has a strong team and I've just enjoyed playing with them," senior defender Riley Menezes said. "Every single season, these guys are like my brothers, and it's hard to watch them go, but now it's my time to go."
A four-year member of the varsity team, Menezes is in hallowed territory. The senior was the lone freshman on the 2016 team that broke a streak of three consecutive years without a state title. Menezes has been with the team each fall, winning championships in 2017, 2018 and now 2019, making him the lone player in Woodburn High School history to graduate with four state medals.
"Ever since my freshman year, I've just been trying to do the best I can. I've just been trying to play the best of my ability and see where it can take me," Menezes said. "It's been an honor just playing and winning these four state championships."
Of course, every great team needs a great foil, and the Stayton Eagles have been that and more for Woodburn since the Bulldogs moved to the 4A Oregon West to begin the 2018 season.
After winning five state championships in an eight-year window, Woodburn's move was touted by many as one that would alter the competitive landscape of the 4A Classification.
But the Eagles were up to the challenge, winning three of four regular-season matches against Woodburn over the past two seasons, including a sweep this year to reclaim their crown as league champions. The intense competition between the two programs was reminiscent of the Bulldogs' frequent clashes with the Hood River Valley Eagles throughout the middle of the decade, matches that would hone Woodburn's abilities for the inevitable state playoff runs.
"They became the new Hood River when we came down, having that rivalry from the start," Sanchez said. "They're the Eagles, same as Hood River. We knew they were the team to beat down in 4A. They might have been the best team in the league, but we're the best team in the state, and that's all that matters to us at this point."
In the two regular-season games between Stayton and Woodburn, the Eagles held the Bulldogs scoreless both times.
"The last few times we've played them, we didn't seem hungry," Menezes said. "We didn't come out with that mentality to try to win every ball."
Those losses were keen in Woodburn's memory coming into Saturday's championship. With Stayton making its fifth state championship appearance since 2010, the Woodburn players knew they needed to come out strong to match the Eagles' intensity.
Their salvation came from in the 28th minute when sophomore midfielder Ricardo Chacon fed a through pass to senior captain Rodolfo Campuzano, who struck it past Stayton's Ivan Pelayo for the lone score of the game.
"He's one of our captains, and hopefully, one of them was going to be the one that came through for us," Sanchez said. "He's one of the best forwards in the state and he proved today that he can get in there."
Woodburn continued to pepper Pelayo throughout the game, holding a 12-7 advantage in shot attempts, but the Stayton defense held firm. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, their backline was just as resilient — as was senior keeper Isaac Pureco, who recorded three saves to earn Player of the Game honors for Woodburn.
The victory moved the Bulldogs into a tie for the most consecutive boys soccer state championships in Oregon history, matching the Jesuit Crusaders and Catlin Gabel Eagles. The Crusaders won four 4A titles from 1991 through 1994, while the Eagles tied with Henley as co-champions in 1989 and 1990 before winning two more outright titles in 1991 and 1992.
With Woodburn's victory over Stayton in the 2019 4A State Championship, head coach Leroy Sanchez became the Bulldogs' most decorated coach in program history.
Leroy Sanchez — 2017, 2018, 2019
Luis Del Rio — 2010, 2011
Stan Baker — 2016
Carlos Horcos — 2012
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