Bulldog soccer controls home finale

It took exactly 1 minute, 35 seconds for the Moffat County High School boys soccer team to erase the bad memories of its worst loss of the season.

After dropping a 4-0 decision Tuesday to Battle Mountain, Moffat County took out their frustrations on Palisade in a 5-0 win. Junior Pepe Loya-Mendoza started the party early when he snuck past Palisade's offside trap for a breakaway goal less than two minutes into the game.

"We want to try to score early every time," Loya-Mendoza said. "We needed to come back from Battle Mountain, so it was good."

Loya-Mendoza also scored right away in the second half. Miguel Martinez found Loya-Mendoza wide open as he made a run toward the goal, and the junior took the pass and finished it off. He has a team-leading 11 goals.

"Scoring early calms the team down," coach Jeff Hammond said. "Battle Mountain did to us, what we should have done to them Tuesday. Our early goals here made the difference."

The Bulldogs went into the half up 2-0. Scott Smith scored his second goal of the season 25 minutes into the first half to give the Blue Bulldogs the two-goal lead.

Smith and the rest of the Moffat County reserves saw time in both halves. Hammond said it was a top priority to give everybody playing time against Palisade.

"We need to work on our depth," he said. "Since Battle Mountain and Palisade didn't have JV games, we needed to give everybody time."

Three quick goals at the beginning of the second half made it easier for Hammond to rotate everybody in.

Four minutes into the second half, Martinez lofted a pass over the Palisade defense to a running Juan Valencia-Lopez. The pass reached a wide-open Valencia-Lopez, and he took advantage of the one-on-one with the goalie Butch Mumby.

Five minutes later, Dustin White juked a defender at the top of the goalie box and sent a shot past Mumby, who was in for regular keeper Chris Martin.

The shutout was the Bulldogs' third in four games. It also was the final regular-season home game for the Blue and White.

"We had some fun today," Hammond said.

The fans this year were treated to the most successful soccer team to wear Moffat County jerseys. The team accomplished numerous records for the boys soccer program this year. Most wins (seven), most goals (43), and its the only season in which the team outscored opponents in total goals (43-22).

Above all, the new records, is the team's first trip to the post season. A spot in the playoffs was secured last week in the 3-0 win against Steamboat Springs.

Not everything is set in stone yet for the Blue and White. They still could finish third or fourth in the Western Slope League.

If the Bulldogs (6-4-1) win the season finale in Gypsum against Eagle Valley (1-9-0), they will move ahead of Rifle in the wins column to finish third in the league. The third-place finish could allow them to play a playoff game in front of the hometown crowd next week.

A loss to the Devils will mean a fourth-place finish and the last playoff spot from the Western Slope. That likely means a road trip to the Front Range.

"Looking at the history of where they've sent Western Slope teams, we could be somewhere like Greeley or Pueblo," Hammond said.

In their first matchup against the Devils, the Bulldogs won 4-3 after going up 3-1 in the first half.

"We need that one," Hammond said.

The kickoff for the away game is scheduled for 11 a.m.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 211 or by e-mail at dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com.

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