The first time Pleasant Hill boys soccer Ryota Sugitani coach watched Adrian Arellano display his skills as a freshman in 2019, he almost had to do a double-take.
“It's a public school in a rural area, and many kids come in playing soccer for the first time in their lives,” Sugitani said. “Most freshmen have very elementary ball skills and touches. Adrian had great touch on the ball.”
Sugitani could see the potential, but three years later, he couldn't have imagined what the 5-foot-10, 210-pound Arellano is on the brink of accomplishing.
At 81 career goals, the stout and powerful Arellano is within three of the state's all-time scoring mark of 84, shared by McMinnville's Frankie Lopez (2003-06) and Corvallis' Edgar Monroy (2016-19). Arellano has three regular-season matches remaining to make a push for the record.
“I always knew I could, but it kind of hit me a couple weeks ago and I realized how close I was to it,” Arellano said. “It would mean a lot. It's something that I didn't even dream of because I didn't think it was possible. Now that it is possible, it's just something that would be great to achieve, and a great way to end a good high school career.”
The Billies, who are 6-3-1 overall and 4-2 in 3A/2A/1A Special District 3, play Wednesday at Siuslaw/Mapleton (5-3-2, 2-3-1). They finish the season with home games against Central Linn (6-2, 4-1) on Oct. 17 and La Pine (3-6-1, 1-4-1) on Oct. 24.
If Arellano needs more time to get the record, third-place Pleasant Hill has a realistic shot at earning one of the district's four automatic berths to the state playoffs.
Arellano, who began making the 35-minute commute from his home in Oakridge to attend Pleasant Hill as a freshman, got off to a slow start in his high school career. He didn't play in a varsity match until late in his freshman season, but capitalized by scoring four goals in four matches.
“By the end of his freshman year, he pretty much claimed his starting position,” Sugitani said. “But I did not expect him to explode that much after that.”
After putting up 14 goals in eight matches in the COVID-shortened season as a sophomore, Arellano erupted as a junior by scoring 40 goals. The total is No. 3 on the state's all-time single season list behind Brookings-Harbor's Luke Beamon (44 in 2018) and Catlin Gabel's Felipe Rueda Duran (41 in 2021).
“Every single year he got so much better,” Sugitani said. “By sophomore year, our team started developing good midfielders. We had three very strong juniors playing midfield who started feeding the ball to Adrian. They just knew if they got the ball to Adrian, he was going to do something with it.”
Arellano developed a deep rapport with his teammates on and off the field.
“When I started going to Pleasant Hill, the soccer team, those were my only friends at the time,” Arellano said. “That bond got stronger and stronger. I made really good friends with the seniors from last year. They were just great players. Just being their friend helps in that understanding each other on the pitch, too.”
Arellano has scored 23 goals this season, although without as much support in the midfield, he has had to work a lot harder for them.
“He'll try to dribble through,” Sugitani said. “There are certain times we have to talk, like, go to a give-and-go instead of trying to break through three defenders. It works sometimes, so it's hard to argue that when it works. But when you go against a better team, it's not going to work. So he's learning that right now.”
It's another step in the evolution of Arellano, who didn't begin playing club soccer until joining Eugene-based Pelada Academy as a junior.
“It's more about being more patient, because there aren't as many people to feed me the ball,” Arellano said. “I've had to play midfield a couple times this season, so that's me having to drop back and do some of the building up for it, too. A lot of patience involved in that.”
Arellano's physical traits and skills serve him well in controlling the ball in a crowd.
“He's got short legs, and his center of gravity is very low,” Sugitani said. “His strength is his left foot and right foot are pretty much equal. That's pretty hard to find at the 3A soccer level.
“He does things that are sort of like, 'How did you come up with that in that split-second?' The funny thing, he doesn't look that athletic at all. But he's very strong.”
Regardless of how the season plays out for Arellano, it's been a remarkable soccer journey for him. He is hoping it extends into college, if he can find the right connection.
“I don't have anything planned, but I'd really like to continue playing soccer,” he said. “I plan on playing club soccer this winter, so that might help.”
Notes: Reigning 3A/2A/1A champion Catlin Gabel (10-2) had a 34-match unbeaten streak until dropping back-to-back games, falling 3-1 at Oregon Episcopal (9-1) on Sept. 30 and 1-0 at home to previously winless De La Salle North Catholic on Oct. 3. Freshman Hersom Regalado Chavez scored for De La Salle North Catholic (1-8). … Willamette's Papa Yansane accounted for six of his team's 11 goals last week. He had four goals and one assist in a 6-1 win over Sheldon and added two goals to help beat Roseburg 5-0. … Javier Sandoval Gongora scored the winning goal in the last two minutes and added two assists as Marist Catholic strengthened its hold on first place in the 4A Sky-Em League by beating Cottage Grove 3-2 on Oct. 4. He had a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win over North Bend on Oct. 6. … Jose Guzman had two goals and an assist for Woodburn in a 5-1 win at Corvallis on Oct. 4. …
Gladstone surprised first-place Estacada 3-1 in a 4A Tri-Valley Conference match Oct. 4, getting two goals from Hudson Winfrey. …Scappoose's Paul Parral scored four goals as the Indians outlasted Tillamook 5-3 on Oct. 4 in a battle for first place in the 4A Cowapa League. … St. Mary's of Medford freshman Jose Mondesi recorded a hat trick in an 8-0 win over Illinois Valley on Oct. 3. … Wells edged Lincoln 1-0 in a key 6A Portland Interscholastic League match Oct. 6, getting a first-half goal from Rowan Pierce. But Grant handed Wells its first league defeat Monday, beating the Guardians 1-0 at Delta Park. Grant was coming off a 1-0 loss to Cleveland on Oct. 6, surrendering a first-half goal to Zidane Indarta. … 6A Metro League frontrunner Jesuit salvaged a 3-3 tie with Aloha behind two goals from Drew Pedersen. … South Umpqua's Emori Pauli scored twice in a 2-2 tie with Gold Beach on Oct. 5. … West Albany's Jonathon Fiscal had a hat trick to help his team defeat Lebanon 5-1 on Oct. 4.