The Moffat County High School varsity soccer squad was strafed at the weekend Air Academy tournament in Colorado Springs.
Head coach Eric Johnson knew the going would be tough, but he intentionally scheduled top notch opponents in the early season to get his young team seasoned before league play begins.
"We were playing over our heads, but it was a great learning experience," Johnson said. "Now they know where they need to be to compete at the state level."
The greatest challenge for such a young team, the Bulldogs have sixteen freshmen this year, is finding the intensity and aggression to play with the top teams in the state.
"They (the Bulldogs opponents) just had a lot faster and more aggressive style of play," Johnson said. That aggression translated to big wins for the three opponents the Bulldogs faced in the tournament.
Denver East rolled to an 8-1 victory over the Bulldogs. Cheyenne, Wyo. won 7-0 and Stanley Lake ran up a 10-0 tally.
"There wasn't a team that had less than eight seniors," Johnson said. "Denver East came in with 12 seniors." Many of the teams that competed in the tournament also had upwards of 80 athletes try out for their teams even Bulldog football didn't attract that many players.
The Bulldogs' next travel to Aspen on Saturday to face yet another strong squad, but Johnson feels his team is improving, and the future remains bright for a team that gets better with each new experience.
"From the Central game to the tournament this weekend, we've been working on little goals better passes at mid field and speeding up our play," Johnson said. "By the end of the weekend, the boys were really beginning to respond."
"The strength of our passes and speed is what's killing us right now," he added. "We have the knowledge of the game, but we're just not executing."
It was that execution and the little lapses that hurt the Bulldogs most of all during the tournament.
"We'd have a lapse in concentration, or we'd make a little mistake, and the more experienced teams would just take advantage of that and capitalize on it," Johnson said.
The coach said the tournament taught the team some important lessons, and he feels the team maintains high spirits despite the slow start to the season.
"They understand what we're trying to do by scheduling these tough teams," said Johnson. "They're holding up really well."