HERMISTON - The Hermiston Bulldogs boys soccer team lost key players to graduation, but have a solid group of returners and hope to vie for a playoff berth in the Intermountain Conference this season.
The Bulldogs open play with a pre-season game at 4 p.m. Friday in the Pendleton Jamboree.
"We have a good shot at the playoffs," said fifth-year Bulldogs coach Tim McCreary. "We have a fair amount of speed, even compared to last year, and we have the quality players, if we can just gel."
Lost to graduation were first team IMC midfielder David Wattenburger, second team midfielder Omar Medina, along with honorable mention players Greg Hamm and Roberto Moreno.
The Bulldogs, however, return Adrian Velasquez, who earned IMC honorbale mention honors.
In addition to Velasquez, McCreary has some veteran players in seniors Gabe Ortega and Brandt Lloyd.
"Julio Guardado has worked very hard this summer and is another experienced varsity player," McCreary said. "And we have our keeper Jordan Fisher back. The team didn't have a good tournament season last year, but he did."
The Bulldogs posted a 5-8-1 IMC mark last year and were involved in some close losses.
Other returning players with varsity experience are R.C. Webb, who anchors the Bulldogs' defense and Kevin Eldridge. The Bulldogs will also rely on a group of sophomores that McCreary said will see time.
"We have a couple of guys struggling with injuries sustained over the summer," McCreary said. "And we have some kids still working the harvest, so we haven't had the full team together yet."
2003 IMC boys standings
Redmond 14-0-0 42
Hood River 12-2-0 36
Summit 8-4-2 26
Mt. View 7-5-2 23
Hermiston 5-8-1 16
Crook County 2-8-4 10
Bend 2-10-2 8
Pendleton 0-13-1 1