30 Straight Years for this Oregon Team

Oct 7, 2016

Crowd at Woodburn High School soccer game
Credit Woodburn High School

There is a high school boys soccer team in Oregon that has made it to the playoffs for 30 straight years.. It is Woodburn High School and it's no coincidence that most of its players are Latinos.

Woodburn, Oregon's largest majority Latino town, is a place where they celebrate Mexican Independence Day with zest:

"Viva Mexico!  Viva!"

The high school has a mariachi band:

(Playing La Bamba)

And don't get a Woodburn resident talking about

soccer:

"Soccer here is, you've probably heard the expression, is like a religion."  Downtown business association President Anthony Veliz says soccer is part of the fabric of the community. People of all ages play it in the city's parks every evening.  And Coach Stan Baker says that's what leads to an extraordinarily successful high school soccer team:

"Kids from a young age get a sense of the game from watching it on tv with their family.  It's mainly family passing the passion on through generations."

The Woodburn High boys soccer team has made it to the playoffs for 30 straight years.  One reason is that  practices are long:

"(Ball being kicked around...get to the corners now!)"

Baker teaches soccer as it is playing in Spain, where he was a player:

"We put a premium on speed of play and passing the ball, moving it quickly, having a more intelligence-based game. The theory is that everything starts in the head, flows through the heart, and ends in the feet, which is the execution."

"Everyday at practice we work hard and we just play for each other, not selfish."

Baker with co-captain Anthony Santien.  Officially the team is called the Bulldogs. Unofficially, los Perros:

"(Perros cheer)"

In years past, the team members were all Latinos.  Now there are a few caucasians.  Andy Ellingson is a co-captain:

"We've all been playing on the same club teams since we were six years old.  We've been growing up together, playing the same game, playing with the same people."

One thing that has changed recently is the number of slurs they hear on the road.  They've decreased. Co-captain Kevin Vasquez says they haven't completely gone away:

"They want to intimidate us but for the most part we don't pay no mind, we're there for the game and that's what we focus on."

In recent years, another majority Latino team has become Woodburn's rival.  Similar to Woodburn, Hood River Valley is a place where the parents or grandparents of many players came to pick fruit and stayed. Some think that tough work ethic and spirit of sacrifice is showing up in the players.  In the last six years, either Hood River or Woodburn have won the league championship five times.

It's September 29th and the two teams meet:

"We absolutely love coming out here to play Woodburn. We know it's going to be a battle every single time."

Coach Jaime Rivera. Hood River is the defending champion and they had gone undefeated in their last 45 games. One reason is Latino players have a reputation for being willing to take a hit:

"I think the passion overshadows the pain."

The bleachers are packed at Woodburn High at kick-off:

(Crowd sounds and ref's whistle)

Only about a minute into the game, the Perros' Reggie Reyes takes shot on goal:

(Crowd cheers wildly Reggie!)

And scores.  Soon after Woodburn adds a second goal. The Hood River comes back with three straight. Finally, with just a couple of minutes left, Woodburn is awarded a penaltly kick and scores.  The game ends in a 3-3 tie.  Woodburn business leader Anthony Veliz can't wait to see Hood River in the playoffs and then maybe a championship...for Woodburn:

"It's been a  real source of pride. Winning a couple of state championships always seems to bring people together."