Putnam boys have high expectations

by: JOHN DENNY - Putnam team captains (from left) Dustin Lantz, Elliot Bixby and Tim Bibian have high aspirations for the 2012 season, as they hope to defend their league title in Northwest Oregon Conference soccer.The Rex Putnam Kingsmen headed into the 2012 Class 5A boys soccer season with high expectations.

They’d overachieved last fall, winning their school’s first league title in boys soccer and advancing to a state quarterfinal for only the third time. Most of the starters return from that team and there are 14 seniors on this year’s varsity roster.

But the Kingsmen got off to a 1-4-0 start in preseason, with a 3-2 win over Class 6A Centennial, and losses to Class 4A boys soccer power La Salle (2-1), Class 6A Tigard (4-0), Class 6A Century (2-0) and to Hood River (4-1), the top-ranked team in the state in 5A.

“We’ve had a lot tougher preseason schedule than last year, with a lot of 6A teams that our pretty good teams,” said Putnam coach Mitch Wing. “The team is still struggling to find themselves....

“It’s been pretty frustrating for both the coaches and the players. We’re not putting the ball in the net. This is our fifth game and we’ve only scored five goals. We miss [graduate] Joey Martinez. He was our main goal-scorer last season and we’re still trying to figure out how to score in his absence....

“With the amount of seniors we have, we should be competitive. And I think we’ll get there.”

Martinez last season scored 22 goals and made eight assists, as the Kingsmen outscored their opponents 57-22, en route to a 13-4-0 record.

Although they are without their top offensive player from a year ago, the Kingsmen have plenty of returning talent. They return 10 players that saw at least some starting action last season, including six players who received Northwest Oregon Conference all-star recognition last year: seniors Matt Baker (defense), Luis Perez (defense/forward), Dustin Lantz (midfield) and Greg Elkins (defense); junior Elliot Bixby (midfield) and sophomore Oscar Gutierrez (forward/midfield).

Lantz, the Kingsmen’s leading scorer so far this fall, scored goals in each of Putnam’s first three games before he was sidelined by a hip-flexer injury.

Among others returning with starting experience from 2011 are: seniors Jacob Wood (defense), David Wood (defense), Ian Kay (goalkeeper) and Jose Rivera (forward). Senior defenders Sam Batz, Tim Bibian and Carlos Perez also return with varsity experience.

Rounding out this year’s varsity roster are: seniors Dalan Brown (defense), Andrew Ciobanasiu (forward/midfield) and Ryan Moore (forward/midfield); junior Kieko Antonio (defense/midfield); and sophomores Matt Ciobanasiu (forward), Kegan Makinster (defense) and Alexis Sanchez (midfield/forward).

Putnam’s boys soccer program is healthy. Wing has 20 players each on his varsity, jayvee and freshmen squads.

Wing says that on paper, Sherwood and Parkrose should be the top teams in the NWOC this fall.

“Sherwood’s always good and they have the league Player of the Year [forward Nathan Anderson] back,” Wing said. “Parkrose, like us, has 14 or 15 seniors coming back.”

“I think we could do very good if we all work together and play like a team, like last year,” Lantz said.

Bibian, who is among 12 seniors on this year’s team who were also on varsity as sophomores, recalls his sophomore year: “I was so scared. I was tiny. I weighed 106 pounds and the kids we were playing against were a lot older and a lot bigger.”

“It’s a good thing that we’re mostly seniors,” said Bixby. “Age and experience makes a big difference in boys soccer....

“I think we have as good a shot as last year [of winning league]. Hopefully we’ll do that, and we’ll go further in the playoffs.”

“I feel good about our prospects since we have so many seniors,” said Bibian. “We’ve been playing together a long time....

“If we play hard and play with a passion, I think could make it to the [state final].”

Bibian said that the biggest thing that has been missing as the Kingsmen have battled against strong opponents in preseason has been “intensity.”

“Last year we played with a lot more intensity,” he said. “We’ve had stretches where we’ve played really good this season, but then we have a letdown, and that’s when people score. We’ve got to play with intensity for a full 80 minutes. If we do that, I think we will be successful.”

The Kingsmen finally put it altogether last week, toppling Madison, 4-1. It was only the second loss for the Quakers (4-2-0), who were ranked 16th in the state at the time.

The Kingsmen (2-5-0) host Sherwood (1-3-2) this Thursday in their NWOC opener.

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