Corvallis High prides itself on treating every boys soccer match with commensurate care.
The Spartans aspire to bring the same level of intensity to seemingly insignificant nonleague affairs, such as Tuesday’s against visiting North Eugene, as they would to a critical Mid-Willamette Conference showdown with Woodburn or South Albany. That unwavering focus was on display as CHS routed the Highlanders 6-0 at Spartan Stadium.
“It’s always important to look at those big games, but we also have to pay attention to the small games, too,” junior midfielder Avery Whipple said. “We have to look forward to the games against teams that maybe don’t have the greatest record. We have to power through those games and make sure we clear them and then once we get to the big ones, we can fully focus on those.”
CHS (5-0-1) successfully deployed that strategy against the Highlanders (0-6), seizing a 5-0 first-half lead behind goals from Whipple, Josh Catzin and an Edgar Monroy hat trick. Whipple scored again after the break to push the lead to 6-0.
The Spartans wrap up nonleague play Friday with a home match against Churchill before kicking off their MWC slate next Tuesday at rival Crescent Valley. Home dates with South Albany (Oct. 13) and Woodburn (Oct. 17) will likely shape the conference title race.
“We have the skills, we have the tactics and we know what we want to do,” junior defender Riley Mellinger said. “It really just comes down to focus and how badly we want it.”
The Spartans, who haven’t won the MWC crown since 2009, have surrendered just two goals through six matches. First-year keeper Roman Gabriel and a strong back line have established great rapport to keep opposing teams off the board.
Tuesday’s match was the team’s fourth shutout of the season.
“Our defense is probably one of our strongest units,” CHS coach Chad Foley said. “It’s not really just our back line, but it’s team defense. You can’t rely on just one group of guys to defend. You’ve got to rely on the unit as a whole team, and I think the guys have embraced that and take pride in keeping a clean sheet.”
The Spartans have also demonstrated the ability to score goals in bunches.
Monroy, Dylan Heppell and Michael Chavez pace an attack that has already netted 25 goals. Heppell and Monroy, who is just a sophomore, were both second-team all-MWC selections last fall.
“I think a big reason that we’re doing well is there’s a trust among us,” Whipple said. “We’re all buddies who like to mess around and our practices are sometimes kind of silly. But when we come out to the field, it’s game time and we know it’s time to play.”
Added Foley: “We just have a good group of guys and a good group of soccer players. They are having fun, they are upbeat and the chemistry is there. When the chemistry is there, the goals tend to come.”
The Spartans entered Tuesday at No. 4 in the OSAA 5A power rankings, one spot behind CV and two above South Albany. Woodburn, which has captured the last seven MWC titles, was the league’s fourth-highest team at ninth.
CHS has finished second to the Bulldogs three times since 2009.
“The key to beating Woodburn is just passion,” senior Nick Scoville said. “We’ve got to have that passion and we’ve got to have that fire every single game all the time.”