Sports Zone, Springfield

Colts set lofty goals with veteran-laden team, Vega

SPRINGFIELD – It would be one of the understatements of the year to say that Thurston boys soccer coach Jake Bonnett is glowing with optimism about the upcoming season. 

The first game at home against Cottage Grove was weeks away when he spoke with The Chronicle, but Bonnett was wishing the season was already underway. 

“We only lost two seniors, and they were great players, so I’m returning virtually every single varsity player. And most of my JV team is coming back,” said Bonnett, beginning his second season as head coach.  

“Everyone’s been training hard this offseason. Some people can look at our record from last season (4-8-2) and say that we struggled. I’m super proud of the work we did, and I’m super proud of the fact that we put together some wins in games that were really tough. We came back and got some draws that maybe people were surprised with. There were a couple of setbacks, but we’ve done so much to progress since then. 

“I don’t think anybody else in the state only graduated two players. To have so many returning players is an absolute blessing for us, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people this year,” he said.

2022 FILE PHOTO. Thurston coach Jake Bonnett said his team has been training hard through the summer. 

Bonnett says he’s trying to change the culture at Thurston, because the Colts haven’t had much success in soccer. 

“I love working with everyone here; I man the front desk,” he said. “I’m fairly new to the area, and being able to have a job on the staff where I can keep an eye on my players, this is the best job I’ve ever had. And I get to be a role model to my players full-time. 

“The best part is I get to be that role model every single day, and I get to do grade checks on my guys. I’ll walk by them in the hallway and say, ‘Hey, I see that math grade has been dropping, what can we do to make that better?’ and having that opportunity to set up study halls when some kids are struggling, I can bring in teachers who will join the study halls, and our teachers are so generous with their time. I get to hang out with these teachers and kids, and building those relationships has been invaluable to our program. 

“I’m in charge of attendance, so I get to make sure that all of my players are coming to school and going to class. If guys skip school, they don’t play. They have to walk past me to go to class. We’re student-athletes; if you can’t take care of the student part, then I won’t allow you to take care of the athlete part.” 

Bonnett has some athletes who check all the boxes. 

“Carlos Vega, I can’t say enough good stuff about him, he’s a fantastic player and a great role model,” the coach said of his returning senior captain. “Whenever he shows up, he gives every single guy in the program a high-five. That’s the kind of leadership we’re looking for.” 

Then there’s senior goalkeeper Carter Brooks. 

“Carter has shown so much growth in the last year, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player improve so much in such a small amount of time,” said Bonnett, who lives in Eugene with his wife, Amy, and their two rescue dogs. 

He was quick to add that there was strong competition at virtually every position. 

“We have that classic next-man-up mentality now,” Bonnett added. “Some of the freshmen who’ve come in and some of the sophomores who had big roles last year are pushing the experienced players to be ‘the guy’.”

Bonnett, who was an assistant for one season at Sheldon before coming to Thurston, graduated from Crescent Valley High School in 2006, then suffered knee injuries so severe that it affected his ability to walk. He wound up being an assistant coach at his old high school for the next six years. 

Now, he says he feels like he couldn’t have landed in a better spot. 

Not only because his Colts have so many returning players, but some of the other teams in the league have questions to answer. For instance, perennial power Springfield lost seven seniors, including all four captains. Pleasant Hill said goodbye to Adrian Arellano, the leading scorer in Oregon history. 

“Our league is in a unique position – three of seven teams make the playoffs,” Bonnett said. “It’s an interesting dynamic. Nobody wants to lose, but we’re not going to risk an injury during an early-season non-league game. 

“I’m not afraid of any team we play this year. I’m excited. I told the guys our primary goal is to make it to the playoffs, our secondary goal is to win the league title. I want to put a banner up in our gym. 

“Who’s the team to beat? Springfield has had a ton of success. Ashland, I have a ton of respect for. But the team to beat is the next one I play – I have the memory of a goldfish, I’m looking ahead to the next game on the schedule.  

“I’m just excited. We’re actually trying to move a game up a day just so we can start earlier.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos