The front three could be a problem for opposing defenses.

Junior Andrew Mecham’s out front with sophomore Mark Grimmer on the left and junior Nick Stucki on the right. Fans watching Thursday’s home jamboree got a little taste of the possibilities with examples of skillful passing and effective speed that keeps defending players on their heels.

“Our front three are very, very technical, very, very fast and very dynamic and they work together very well,” second-year soccer coach David Ellis. “There’s nobody that will say ‘oh, we don’t have to worry about them’ because all three will kill you.”

Behind a strong crew of returning players, including an exceptional defensive unit that doesn’t get beat very often, the Warriors have high hopes for good things to happen this fall.

“I think in technical ability, we’re a lot better than in years past,” said defender Ben Reams, who will be one of five seniors playing their final season with the Warriors. “We know how to play as a team now and we’re going to get things done this year, hopefully.”

It can take a while for players to get used to a new coach. Changes impact all corners of the program from strategy to mindset.

“Unlike last year, we know what he wants us to do so we’re going to try to formulate that into how we play,” Reams said. “We’re just building on it and trying to figure out how we’re going to get the ball in the back of the net.”

Philomath’s defense played well in the jamboree.

“Our defenders barely put a foot out of place so I was really happy with that,” Ellis said. “I think we have that to build with and then our midfield with Luke Haslam and Noah (Aynes) coming in from JV, they both had excellent days today.”

In the outside back positions, players like junior Adam Hernandez and freshman Mateo Candanoza have impressed the coach.

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“They can just run and run and run,” he said about the pair, both of whom also compete in cross-country. “They’re giving us numbers up in the attack and getting back. Their work rate is really helping us get numbers up wherever we are on the pitch.”

As of this past weekend, Philomath’s roster showed 31 players in the program, although Ellis expected that number could go up by a couple, including one prospect “coming that’s probably faster than everybody else.”

The team currently has one foreign-exchange student on the varsity roster in midfielder Julius Hoffman. Out of the 31, the freshman class accounts for 15.

Philomath finished 5-6-3 overall, fourth in the Oregon West and barely missed qualifying for a play-in game. There were a few fine moments during the season, such as a 3-2 victory over Newport and three straight shutouts early on in league play.

Heck, holding powerful Woodburn to a 3-1 loss in the season finale could even be seen as a highlight. The Bulldogs allowed only three goals all season in conference play and went on to win the state title, outscoring four playoff opponents by a combined 15-0.

“I hope we make it to the playoffs this year,” Reams said. “Hopefully, we can go farther than just a play-in game.”

As history tells us, the Oregon West is among the toughest conferences in the state. The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the coaches’ preseason poll are from the league — Woodburn and Stayton — and Newport routinely puts tough squads on the pitch.

It remains to be seen if Philomath can be competitive against those top squads but Ellis believes the program is headed in the right direction.

“I feel like we’re going to get better and better every year,” Ellis said. “I see a bright future for Philomath whether it’s this year or next year but I think we’re going places. I don’t think anybody’s going to happy to play us, you know what I mean?”

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