By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

In 17 years as the head boys soccer coach at McNary, Miguel Camarena has had three teams he felt could seriously win a state championship.

This is one of them.

“We’ll take it step by step but that’s our goal,” Camarena said. “The possession of the ball for this group of kids is impressive. We have 22 guys who can really possess the ball. It’s a dream scenario.”

The first step is instilling confidence in a group that has finished sixth in league play the past two seasons and returns zero players from the 2014 squad that won McNary’s last conference championship.

“They have to believe they can do it,” Camarena said. “That’s it. The talent is there and the kids are working hard. I’m really excited with what I have seen so far.”

The Celtics are led by captains Miguel Bravo, a senior midfielder, and junior Luis Lopez, who made the varsity team as a freshman but has missed most of the past two seasons with injuries. However, Lopez enters the year healthy after a successful club season.

“He’s super good,” Camarena said of Lopez. “He’s strong right now. We need him in the field. I don’t want to see him injured anymore.”

Senior Sebastian Lopez will start at goal keeper for the fourth season in a row.

“He’s the best goal keeper in the state, no doubt,” Camarena said.

Senior Jesus Lopez, another four-year starter, will lead McNary’s defense, which allowed a league-best 19 goals last season.

Camarena expects senior Jose Zamudio and sophomore Alex Salazar to lead the Celtic attack.

Salazar is one of five sophomores who played varsity last season as freshmen.

“We have experienced combined with a lot of young kids,” Camarena said.

McNary will play in the new Mountain Valley Conference. In place of McMinnville, North Salem and Forest Grove, which finished first, second and fourth in the Greater Valley Conference last season, the Celtics add Bend, Summit and Mountain View. Bend had the most success last season, losing in the semifinals of the 5A state playoffs.

McNary opens the 2018 season at home on Tuesday, Aug. 28 against Central at 7 p.m.