The Woodburn boys soccer team has held its last four opponents scoreless

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Woodburn freshman Andrew Almanzar attacks the Dallas defense from the right side of the field in the Bulldogs 17-0 home victory over the Dragons. Almanzar scored twice in the contest, leading an offensive charge from Woodburns underclassmen. Freshmen players like Almanzar, Anthony Santillan and Conner Karsseboom have been instrumental in the Bulldogs success this season, and they accounted for 10 of the teams goals against Dallas.The Woodburn boys soccer team operates under one simple rule: Keep possession of the ball.

First-year head coach Stan Baker entered the season preaching the goal of playing a possession-based soccer game. Since the beginning of October, the Bulldogs have followed this plan to perfection, winning their first four games against Mid-Willamette Conference opposition by a combined score of 29-0.

“If the other team doesn’t have the ball, there’s no way they can score,” said Baker after the Bulldogs completed a week in which they beat Dallas 17-0 and followed with a 5-0 victory at Lebanon High School. “I’ve done tracking, and we’ve tracked as high as 80-percent possession.”

Baker’s style of play keeps the ball at the feet of his Woodburn players as often as possible. The team shies away from deep, booming kicks and prefers to pass back and forth, as Bulldog players seek out open teammates on the far side of the field to move the ball up quickly for an opportunity to attack.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Anthony Santillan scored three goals in Woodburns 17-0 victory over Dallas on Oct. 15.“You have to be precise and you have to move the ball quickly,” said Baker.

Thus far, Woodburn has been all that and more. Since the Bulldogs’ 2-0 loss to Hillsboro on Sept. 19, the team has been largely unchallenged in five games.

The only exception came on Oct. 8 against Silverton when the Foxes played the Bulldogs evenly in the first half before Woodburn pulled away for a 2-0 win.

“Except for the first half against Silverton, every other game in the league we’ve played two halves of complete games,” said Baker. “The whole game, we’ve possessed the ball the whole time and come out and controlled everything.”

The wins have come with some grains of salt. The Bulldogs have been playing against teams in the Mid-Willamette Conference that are a step down in competition from the challenging level that Woodburn was playing in its seven non-conference matches.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Dago Diaz also picked up a hat trick against the Dragons. In total, eight Bulldog players chipped in to score against Dallas.“We’re not facing the players that are really going to challenge,” said Baker. “If they do win a ball, they’re not generally going to be a threat to score.”

That was evident in Woodburn’s huge blowout against the visiting Dragons Oct. 15. Dallas’ players were hesitant to challenge the ball in the Bulldog victory, giving Baker’s players plenty of opportunities to attack the net.

Eight different players scored in the game, led by freshman Conner Karsseboom’s four goals. Anthony Santillan and Dago Diaz each finished the game with a hat trick, and Andrew Almanzar and Eric Diaz added a pair of goals as well.

Karsseboom, Santillan and Almanzar have been part of freshman-heavy offense that Baker originally turned to late in the non-conference schedule when mounting injuries forced him to look outside his varsity roster for help.

“There was a point against Hillsboro and Summit when I had no subs, and now I have 18 players, so that makes a big difference,” said Baker, who called on Karsseboom to help fill the void. “He started on the freshman team and out of necessity we brought him up, and he did really well. He’s continuing to do really well.”

After the game against Dallas, another younger player – sophomore Eric Diaz – scored three goals Thursday to lead the team to its road win over the Lebanon Warriors.

The team also boasts a rookie in goal, where freshman keeper Eddie Cabrera is expected to lead the offensive attack whenever he gets possession of the ball.

“As soon as our goalkeeper gets the ball, we don’t just punt the ball, we roll the ball out to our defenders, and we start on the ground,” said Baker.

The Bulldogs’ victory over the winless Dragons actually dropped the team from first to second in the OSAA rankings, but the way Woodburn is playing, it matters little. The team boasts an 8-1-2 record overall in addition to its 4-0 mark in league with three games left in the season.

Baker hopes to add a few more athletes to his roster before the playoffs start to bolster his team in the final stretch of the season.

“I want to bring some other younger players up so they can get the experience of being around and training with us, so there will be three more,” he said.

The team was scheduled to travel to Crescent Valley (4-5-2, 2-1-1 Mid-Willamette) Tuesday before hosting West Albany (2-7, 1-3) Thursday in the Bulldogs’ final home game of the regular season.

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