If 19-year coach Jose Garcia is right, Mac-Hi soccer senior Oscar Flores plays well enough to have his picture slapped on a Wheaties box some day.

“He can make (the U.S. Olympic team) pretty easily,” said Garcia, an NSCAA advanced diploma and multi-accredited coach. “I’ve watched national teams practicing in L.A. where I take courses, and he can play with those guys; there’s no doubt.”

Nobody cruises to an Olympics, but Garcia insisted that Flores has the potential.

The Class 4A Player of the Year scored 65 goals in 13 undefeated Greater Oregon League games this year, setting school and league records. He raced to 25 goals before Mac-Hi suffered a disappointing 1-0 state semifinal loss to Stayton.

“Oscar is not only a forward,” Garcia said. “He can also drop back and grab balls. All-around, he’s one of the quickest, best and smartest players that I’ve ever had.”

Considered for NHSCA’s National Athlete of the Month in October for all fall sports, Flores was co-4A Player of the Year in 2009. He led top-ranked Mac-Hi to a 17-1 2010 season, averaging five points a game and often toying with defenders.

“I took Oscar out of some games for having too much fun and scoring too many points,” Garcia said.

At 17 years old, Flores is Mac-Hi’s first Division I soccer recruit. Ten schools pursued the standout, including Oregon State, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, Gonzaga, Washington and Whitworth College.

“Right now I have no first choice,” Flores said. “I’m just looking at them all right now.”

Flores scored more than half of Mac-Hi’s goals this year, but was not the only Pioneer forging himself a collegiate athletics path. Unexpected good news reached senior strikers Johnny Trevino and Jose Hererra as they mourned their Stayton defeat in tears — a tryout at OSU on December 15th and 16th with their heavily-recruited teammate.

“I was very happy for them,” said Garcia. “I was happy that we ended up with something positive. Kids being seen by colleges was a great deal for us, especially because we did not make it to the championship.”

For Trevino and Herrera, competing for a university would be more than they had imagined from soccer. Garcia estimated they tabbed near 10 assists each this year, inspiring key goals that helped Mac-Hi outscore its opposition 147-9 in 18 games.

Flores, meanwhile, will not be content with Division I soccer. He conquered UC Santa Barbara’s summer camp, voted Most Valuable Player by coaches above all active UCSB starters as a high school senior.

“It’s been my dream since I was a little kid to play professionally,” Flores said. “Hopefully God helps me out and one day I’ll be playing in the big leagues.”

Friends have prodded Flores to migrate to Mexico to bypass college for a professional club team. Their words swoop in one ear and out the other, because the senior cherishes the value of a college diploma before money.

“I want to go to school and I want to get a profession here, either physical therapy or business,” Flores maintained. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

In a harsh working-world economy, Garcia said that Flores can excel in any discipline he chooses, sports or otherwise. If he harnesses his soccer skills, “there will be no stopping him.”

“His potential will take him as far as he chooses to go,” Garcia said. “I talk to professionals myself, and it’s not like he can’t compete with any of them.”

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