Bulldogs ready for playoffs after close loss

This one was for grandpa.

Battle Mountain senior Joel Gonzales told coach Dave Cope on the bus ride to Craig that his grandfather had passed away during the weekend and was being buried Tuesday. Gonzales then told his coach he was going to score for grandpa.

It took two minutes for that promise to be fulfilled.

Why not add another for good measure?

Gonzales scored both of Battle Mountain's goals in a 2-1 win.

"That was special for Joel," Cope said. "I'm happy for him."

Maybe Gonzales had a little help from his grandpa because the rest of the Huskies had a hard time finding the net against the scrappy Bulldogs.

The Huskies took 35 shots in the game, 24 of which were saved by Moffat County keeper Malcolm Hillewaert.

"Their keeper made two world-class saves," Cope said. "I thought we really made only one miscue on defense, and you can't make a mistake against a player like Jose Loya."

Jose "Pepe" Loya tied the game up for Moffat County when he snuck behind the Huskies' offside trap and put a Nate Berner pass into the net at the 37th minute. It was Loya's 19th goal of the season.

The 2-1 game in Craig and 4-0 game in Eagle-Vail, both in favor of Battle Mountain, matched the same scores as last year's games. Moffat County coach Jeff Hammond was glad to have the 2-1 effort at the end of the year instead of the beginning like the previous season.

"I really felt we put what we learned all year into this game," Hammond said. "We made a couple of costly mistakes on defense, or that game would have went into overtime."

Gonzales' second goal came after the Huskies' relentless attack kept getting stopped short by a shot a few feet off or right to Hillewaert. The Battle Mountain senior fired a shot through several Bulldogs defenders from the 18, and it found the net in the 18th minute.

"We tried to clog it up in the middle," Hammond said. "It made for some intense moments with loose balls, but I thought it worked well."

Hillewaert was disappointed in his team's play after the second goal was scored.

"I felt like we let up after that goal," he said. "We lost our edge."

The Huskies wrapped up the WSL title for a second-consecutive year Saturday with a win against Glenwood Springs. Gonzales said the team has had to find a new focus.

"(An undefeated record) is what we really want right now," Gonzales said. "It's hard to keep the focus a little because we've already won league, but no losses helps us stay motivated."Cope's team is hoping to give the seeding committee for the playoffs no reason not to place them at 16th like last year. He also thought that the other teams in the league such as Moffat County should get more respect.

"I really think our league is underrated," he said. "I think Moffat could make a run if they play like they did today."

As for his team, "We'd like to see a top four seed, but the only thing we can control is what goes on, on the field."

Moffat County completed its regular season with a 6-6 WSL record and a 6-8 overall record. The Bulldogs are a half game ahead of Rifle in the league standings for third place. The Bears, 5-6, finish their season at Palisade, 1-9-1, on Thursday. With a win, the Bulldogs and Bears will be tied for third.

"I think we have the advantage in the tie-breaker," Hammond said. "But we'll have to see."

The 32-team Class 4A playoffs will be seeded during the weekend.

"I think we're starting to do things right at the right time," Hammond said. "We'll be anxious for the playoffs."

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