PLEASANT HILL — Through a season shortened by the pandemic and wildfire evacuations, roster changes and a first season on the bench, Adrian Arellano has had one constant in his footballing career: goals.
Arellano can score, and he’s getting closer to being the best to do so in the state.
The Pleasant Hill senior striker is three goals away from equaling the OSAA’s all-time record in any classification.
With three games left in the regular season, Arellano has 81 career goals going into Monday’s 4 p.m. home game against La Pine.
He already has the second-most goals ever and is now trying to regain the record of 84 first set by Frankie Lopez of McMinnville from 2003-2006 and then tied by Edgar Monroy of Corvallis between 2016-19.
“I’ve always loved football, I’ve always loved playing it and I’ve always loved scoring goals,” said 17-year-old Arellano. “Scoring goals has always been my favorite thing to do.”
Nearly half of his career tally came in an extraordinary 2021 season when he scored 40 goals in his first full season as a starter as the Billies went undefeated until losing in the quarterfinals. OSAA Class 3A/2A/1A playoff final.
With that, Arellano became Oregon’s No. 3 single-season scorer in all categories, just four goals shy of the record 44 set by Brooking’s Luke Beamon in 2018.
Arellano was helped along the way last season by a talented group of veteran midfielders who were able to give him scoring chances.
“They were just giving the ball to Adrian and that really helped him,” said Pleasant Hill coach Ryota Sugitani. “Halfway through the season, they just had this thing going. They knew all they had to do was pass the ball to Adrian.
With a total of 58 career goals at the end of his junior season, Arellano began aiming for the state’s all-time record.
“In the back of my head, I was like, this is a possibility,” he said.
But he also lost several of his businessmen upon graduation last year, creating some uncertainty as to whether he would be able to be as prolific.
By mid-September, Arellano was off to another flying start and he knew then that the record could be his if he stayed the course.
In 10 games he scored 23 goals, although he was a bit crazy to score by his standards with only one goal in the last two games. Of course, he’s also scored three goals in each of the previous five games, so when he gets hot the scoreline comes in bunches.
“In my limited time as a coach, he is by far the best player I’ve had in the end,” Sugitani said. “And he can hit both left and right. … He just loves football more than anything in his life at this stage, I think.
That’s always been the case, said Arellano, whose family lives in Oakridge and where access to soccer fields is limited, so until he got his driver’s license he had to take every opportunity to bring some touches.
When his mother drove to Springfield for groceries, he would get dropped off at Willamalane Fields on 32nd Street to train on his own.
When Arellano’s father, who works 7 a.m. at the Springfield Utility Board, dropped him off at Pleasant Hill High at 6:30 a.m., Arellano brought a soccer ball and headed to the field waiting for the gates of the school opens. He would be back in the field after school too, as he waited for his father’s shift to end at 4:30 p.m.
“I have a lot of work to do,” Arellano said.
This paid off as Arellano was able to play a starring role in the team despite not having much playing time until the last five games of the 2019 season while a student of first year.
He still finished with four goals and entered the offseason hoping to compete for a starting spot in 2020.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning. Again, Arellano was often alone at Oakridge until the Billies played an abbreviated season in March 2021. He returned and scored 14 goals in eight games.
Five months later, with the return to school for his freshman year, Arellano broke out with his 40-goal season.
“He’s a hard working kid, there’s no doubt about that,” Sugitani said. “The players who get so good, it’s not training. It’s how much they catch this football bug and train off the pitch.
Arellano’s senior season got off to a scary start as he and his family had to evacuate their Oakridge home in September when the Cedar Creek Fire came dangerously close to town.
The Arellanos stayed with friends in Pleasant Hill until it was safe to return.
“It was tough,” said Arellano, whose older brother was on the Cedar Creek fire crew. “It got 5 miles away and it was crazy to think the whole town could burn. I’m glad that never happened.
In the weeks that followed, Arellano was able to focus on football as his team sought a playoff berth and he neared the state record.
Arellano admitted that if he sets the record, he would rather do it at home on Monday or Oct. 17 in the regular-season home finale against Central Linn, than on the road against Siuslaw in Florence on Wednesday night.
But he wasn’t going to call either.
“I try to be humble,” he said. “I never like it when people ask me before games: ‘How many goals are you going to score today?’ I just like to play and what happens happens.
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