The Lions are never guilty of not trying.
St. Helens played to five losses of a goal or fewer in last year's 0-13-1 overall, 0-6-1 Northwest Oregon Conference run, and can't wait for good fortune this fall.
The Lions' last win came 2-0 against Sandy in their regular-season finale on Oct. 27, 2015, and they're overdue for another.
"It's hard to lose a lot of seniors [six of which were all-conference picks], but I think we look good," St. Helens coach Bob Opperman said.
The Lions expect to field seniors Gabe Compton, Alex Ramos, Pacey Littleton (forwards) and Daniel Lujano (defender), juniors Ethan Ward (forward), Regan Tolman (midfielder) and Aaron Navarro (defender), and sophomore Kyle Parnell (forward).
Tolman and Parnell "are determined, they don't give up, and they stay in it," Opperman said. "They keep the ball on their feet well."
Points of emphasis in St. Helens practice include going to the ball as one receives a pass, to "never put [the ball] across the goal deep [on defense]," and that only the goalkeeper may yell, "Keeper," to indicate his intent to control the ball.
Class 6A championship runner-up McMinnville got the better of the Lions at the Astoria Jamboree, but Opperman reminds that the Grizzlies are a perennial top-two and that St. Helens was there to have fun and learn as everyone got equal time on the pitch.
"Play your spot," Opperman said. "You'll run out of it, then get back in. I heard more talking [at the Jamboree], but it still wasn't enough."
The Lions (0-1 overall) fell 11-0 at Class 4A play-in rounder Scappoose, for which junior forward Ocean Swint is Ramos' cousin, for the third year in a row, this time at Scappoose Middle School's Chinook Field.
Next up for St. Helens is a 4 p.m. game at Dallas on Tuesday, Class 6A first-rounder Centennial and all-state senior defender Miguel Carillo will visit on Sept. 13, and Class 5A quarterfinalist Hermiston will play host on Sept. 15.
The Dalles, a Class 5A play-in qualifier, will come to town on Sept. 21 before the Lions visit first-rounder South Albany and all-Mid-Willamette Conference talents Austin Mendoza (senior forward), Marco Reyes and Armando Arreola (senior defenders) and Carlos Reyes (sophomore midfielder) on Sept. 26.
In the Lions' Northwest Oregon home opener on Sept. 28, play-in club Sandy and all-Northwest Oregon talents Moises Perez (senior forward), Julian Carpenter (senior midfielder), Brandon Moreno (senior goalkeeper) and Ryan Escareno (sophomore defender) will pay a visit.
Parkrose and expected returning all-conference talents Noah Addie (senior forward), Hector Amezola and Antonio Garcia (senior defenders) and Dominic Hernandez (junior defender), also back from a play-in, await St. Helens on Oct. 3 in Portland.
The Lions are to play at Wilsonville and expected all-conference keeper Oscar Baron Soto (senior) and defender Henry Tellez (junior), who reached the Class 5A championship game, on Oct. 10.
Quarterfinalist Hillsboro, Northwest Oregon Player of the Year Brian Tapia (senior forward) and all-conference picks Edwin Rivas Alvarez, Sebastian Balcazar Polomares and Quintin Thomas (senior midfielders), Luis Mercado Quezada (senior defender) and Angel Rojas-Sierra (sophomore midfielder) will drop in on Oct. 17.
St. Helens will hit the road for Putnam and all conference players Drew Urben and Brandon Preciado (senior midfielders), Trygve Nordby (senior defender) and Johnny Lavadores (junior midfielder), back from the first round, on Oct. 19.
The Lions' final test is a visit to semifinalist La Salle Prep, featuring Northwest Oregon Coach of the Year Seth Altshuler and his all-Northwest Oregon senior midfielder Jack Gabrish, junior midfielder Brendan Dexter, sophomore midfielder Luke Strange and sophomore keeper Quintin Castner, on Oct. 24 in Milwaukie.
SEASON OUTLOOK: The Northwest Oregon Conference will be the best division in Class 5A for the fourth year in a row as Sandy brings back 10 seniors, Hillsboro fields nine and La Salle and Putnam both return six, and the Lions will have all of the upset chances they can dream of.
ST. HELENS AT DALLAS
When: 4 p.m. Tuesday
Getting even: The Lions can repay the Dragons' 3-2 win from last year at Doc Ackerson Stadium in St. Helens
ST. HELENS LIONS
Coach: Bob Opperman (Fourth year)
Classification: Class 5A, Northwest Oregon Conference
Sept. 5 St. Helens at Dallas, 4 p.m.
Sept. 7 Astoria at St. Helens, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 Centennial at St. Helens, 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 St. Helens at Hermiston, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 The Dalles at St. Helens, 4:30 p.m.
Sept. 26 St. Helens at South Albany, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 Sandy at St. Helens, 7 p.m. *
Oct. 3 St. Helens at Parkrose, 6 p.m., in Portland *
Oct. 5 Milwaukie at St. Helens, 7 p.m. *
Oct. 10 St. Helens at Wilsonville, 7 p.m. *
Oct. 17 Hillsboro at St. Helens, 7 p.m. *
Oct. 19 St. Helens at Putnam, 7 p.m., in Milwaukie *
Oct. 24 St. Helens at La Salle Prep, 7 p.m., in Milwaukie *
* - Northwest Oregon Conference match