Throughout the years, the Brookings-Harbor boys varsity soccer team has consistently sat atop of the Far West League, finishing as league champs or runner-ups.
This year has been no different, as the Bruins (11-0-2 overall, 9-0-1, Far West) have gone undefeated during the regular season to clinch the Far West League championship. And with the No. 4 seed in the OSAA playoffs, the Bruins, whom were ranked as high as No. 1 in the regular season, are among the top contenders for the state title.
The Bruin’s success this season is no accident, and is due in part to the founding of Brookings-United, a competitive soccer team, by boys soccer head coach Jess Beaman and his wife Cindi. Under Brookings-United, players traveled around the state competing at tournaments during spring and summer. This allowed players to gain valuable competitive exposure outside of the recreational Brookings-Harbor Soccer League, which only runs for eight weeks in the fall.
“Just being here and watching the high school teams (play), we’d always do really well in league, but come state playoffs, they’d usually not get too far after that,” Beaman said. “So we realized that the kids needed to start playing more. We got lucky with a really good supportive group of the community that are really involved with their kids, and that’s what got us going on it more.”
Thanks to the countless hours spent traveling to and competing in tournaments with Brookings-United, the Bruins, several of whom are alumni of the program, have developed a chemistry like no other.
“We know how to connect with each other,” said senior co-captain Izaiha Bruce. “There’s no disconnection, every person on the team knows what every other person on the team is going to do. It’s just like telepathic communication; we don’t even need to talk.”
Brookings-Harbor has no shortage of talent on their 16-man roster, with four members of the Bruin contingent named the MaxPreps Player of the Week during the regular season. Yet, due to their cohesiveness as a collective, the Bruins have never had to rely too heavily on a single player during any of their wins.
For example, even though Luke Beaman leads the state in goals scored (23), assists (22) and points per game (5.2), the outcome of the game has never solely hinged on his shoulders. While the stats suggest otherwise, the Bruins are, in essence, a team without a “star player.”
“We’re not all focused on just one person,” said co-captain Sam Broberg. “It’s everybody, it’s a group; it’ not just one person.”
Beaman agreed, explaining that the team’s identity had always been about utilizing all 11 players on the field.
“They played so long together, I think they all realize they play better as a unit,” Beaman said. “If you don’t play as a unit, you’re going to lose. These guys just move as a unit. Every coach asks me how I get them to move around like that, and I say they’ve just been playing with each other since rec and travel and everything else.
“You can’t teach [that].”
Another component of the Bruin’s success this year that cannot be overlooked is the leadership of lifelong friends Bruce and Broberg. Although the two are the more reserved-types, Bruce, a first-team All-League selection and Broberg, the Far West League Player of the Year, have stepped into the roles as captains to cultivate a focused, but more relaxed environment than in years past.
“They’re serious but they’re not too strict on the other kids,” Beaman explained. “What usually happens a lot with seniors in the past, is they take it really seriously, and it scares a lot of the kids. They get kind of shied off, the younger ones that are trying to play varsity, and it becomes more about business.
“We’re all aabout business for sure, but I believe kids should have fun. Sam and Izaiha let them mess around a little bit, but when it’s time to get down to business, they make them get down to business.”
And for the Bruins, business means winning a state championship.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Bruce said.
Last year, the eighth-seeded Bruins upset top-seeded Sisters to advance to the playoff semi-finals, where they subsequently loss to Madras. While they came up short, the Bruins exited the season realizing that the prospect of winning a state championship wasn’t as far-off a dream as they originally thought.
“We got so close last year, we know how obtainable it is,” Broberg said. “We’ve never gotten that close, so it was like, ‘Can we really get there?’ But now, since we got to the semis, it seems really obtainable.”
Spurred by how close they came to winning it all a year ago, the Bruins have redoubled their efforts in the offseason. And after an undefeated regular season, the playoffs are upon the Bruins once again.
This time around, they don’t plan on coming home empty handed.
“We’re more mature, and we want it more than we did last year,” Bruce said. “We can see ourselves winning now.”
OSAA Playoff Preview: Bruins host North Valley
Looking ahead to today’s game, the fourth-ranked Bruins will face a familiar foe in No. 13 North Valley in the first round of the Oregon School Activities (OSAA) 4A Soccer State Championships.
The two teams met in their season openers earlier this year in what a back and forth affair that saw the Bruins pull out the win after scoring two goals in the final 10 minutes to win 5-4.
The Lancers, who are averaging 2.6 goals per game are currently riding a hot streak, as they have won their three games by a combined score of 14-0. The Bruins, who average 5.6 goals, are arguably coming in even hotter, with 18 goals scored in their last two games.
“Our defense was a lot tighter than it was when we played them in Crescent City,” said head coach Jess Beaman. “It’s a big difference now; when I started the season we were only playing three defenders back there but now I’m playing four. Their team has improved a ton, but I think we’ll be able to handle them just like we did before.
“We played them in the Gibney Center and they have come over here for a couple of friendlies usually, so we’re very familiar with each other.
“It’s gonna be fun to play again.”
The game will kick off at 3 p.m.