At the 3A/2A/1A level, there has been a reign of dominance between the likes of Catlin Gabel (CG) and Oregon Episcopal (OES) for quite some time. Since the OSAA moved away from a sole division for Boys Soccer in 1988, the two have combined for an absurd 21 state titles, and 10 runner-up finishes. For as long as we’ve been covering this level, there hasn’t been a year in memory where either OES or CG haven’t gone into a season as the favorite, until now.
In 2022, we saw OES take down a very young McLoughlin side in the title match, en route to a 2-1 victory. The Aardvarks definitely were the better side, but you could tell something was brewing for the future in Milton-Freewater. Since that title match, the Aardvarks lose their two first team all state selections in Braeden Carter, and the 3A/2A/1A Player of the Year, Alex Chen. On the other hand, McLoughlin returns four first team all-state selections. With the boatload of talent returning for the Pioneers, paired with the fact they only graduate one starter, we see Mac-Hi as the favorites headed in to 2023.
Teams to Look Out For in 2023
McLoughlin – As mentioned above, we see McLoughlin as the favorites heading into the Fall. Giovanni Sandoval, Angel Castillo, Almikar Garcia, and Danny Gonzalez received first team all state accolades last season, and return to the pitch in 2023. 10 out of the 11 starters from the 2022 squad return for McLoughlin and will mix into the fray, providing a wealth of experience and leadership.. An established soccer culture in Milton-Freewater will undoubtedly provide the Pio’s with a freshman class that can mix into the squad as well. Reigning 4A Coach of the Year Jose Garcia will be able to do A LOT with this group, such as throwing a multitude of looks and formations at their opponents. McLoughlin will open their season with two very tough matches against Catlin Gabel and at North Marion. These early tests will be a great benchmark to see how talented this Pioneer bunch can really be.
Oregon Episcopal – As previously discussed, a team like Oregon Episcopal will always be in the mix. The defending 2022 state champions lose their two first team all state selections, but return their two goalscorers from the title match in Julian Ettinger and Ryder Sendecke. Of the Aardvarks starting eleven, seven will return, mixed with eight freshman who have all gained experience as well. OES hasn’t missed out on the semifinals since 2017, and we don’t see why this year will be any different. An opening match at Riverside is one we have our eyes on in an affair we could see going either way.
Catlin Gabel – Like OES, this is a Catlin Gabel Eagles bunch we expect to see in the final four or better year in and year out. Last year, CG went 12-3 in the regular season on their way to earning the two-seed in the OSAA State Playoffs. However, the Eagles were dumped out of the quarterfinal round by McLoughlin, in a 4-2 penalty shootout. In 2023, the 2021 state champions return Raul Rendon Benitez, the only Eagles player to receive first team all state honors. Ansel Wallace and George Pritchard were second team selections for CG, but unfortunately for the Eagles, both were seniors. As a whole, Catlin loses a whopping 12 players, but as we’ve seen in past seasons this is something that they can deal with and we expect them to reload. If the Eagles storm into Milton-Freewater on August 26th, and knock off the Pioneers, the whole state will need to be on notice.
St. Mary’s, Medford – The Crusaders burst onto the scene in 2022, ending the regular season with a 12-1 record, and making a run to the state semifinals. St. Mary’s only dropped games to OES and Catlin Gabel which is achievement in itself honestly. The Crusaders are a team we’re really excited about in 2023, because they return 20 of their 21 rostered varsity players. Amongst those returning is first team all state selection Leo Cronk, and second team selections Chris Kranenburg and Jose Mondesi. Last year the Crusaders dominated league play, going 12-0 and outsourcing their opponents 72-5. St. Mary’s will be tested immediately, facing Catlin Gabel to begin their season on September 2nd. When the two sides faced off last year, the Eagles came away with a 1-0 victory.
Riverside – A name that flew under the radar in 2022 was the Riverside Pirates. The 2017 state champions went on a 12 match unbeaten streak heading into their quarterfinal tilt with OES. Unfortunately for the Pirates, they ran into a buzzsaw on that November afternoon, as the Aardvarks eliminated them 5-2. In 2023, Riverside returns 23 of their 25 rostered Varsity players, and a few of which were all state selections. Darek Castaneda, Hugo Ceron, Jordan Castillo, and Julian Alvarez all received honorable mentions and will contribute heavily to a Pirate side ready to take that next step forward. The Pirates refuse to back down from the competition, scheduling Catlin Gabel and OES to begin their season. This is a tell tale sign that a team is poised to break out, and we know what Riverside is capable of.
Other teams that are poised to have a strong 2023 include Dayton, Riverdale and Westside Christian.
Other players worth keeping an eye on this season includes:
Brady Housley (Westside Christian)
Memo Cervantes (Delphian)
Felix Navarro (Gervais)
Jonathan Lopez (Riverside)
Emori Pauli (South Umpqua)
Riley Reinkka (Valley Catholic)
Oswaldo Rosas (Dayton)
Anthony Arizmendi (Nyssa)
Sarp Erdem (Riverdale)
Johnny Islas (Dayton)
Matias Sanchez (Coquille)
Ben Alley (Blanchet Catholic)
Amadeus Hernandez (Lost River)
Gabe Wong (Westside Christian)
- Oregon Episcopal
- Catlin Gabel
- St. Mary’s, Medford
- Westside Christian
- Delphian / Willamina
- North Valley
Considered: Coquille / Myrtle Point, Umpqua Valley Christian, Pleasant Hill, Santiam Christian / Kings Valley Charter