Fight to the finish

Bulldogs give No. 2 Eagles a run for their money

— If it hasn't been done yet, copies of Wednesday night's soccer game with Moffat County and Broomfield will be duplicated soon. That's because college coaches might be interested in a couple of Bulldogs after their effort against the No. 2 team in the state.

And while the tapes are being copied for coaches, there might as well be one made and sent to the Colorado State High School Activities Association. The supposed lowly Bulldogs, seeded at No. 31, gave the Eagles a scare in a 3-1 loss in the state soccer playoffs Wednesday.

"We played up to their level," Moffat senior Schuyler Hammond said. "We were ready tonight."

One reason the Bulldogs hung with the Eagles was senior keeper Malcolm Hillewaert.

Hillewaert made 17 saves in the game, and there were few that didn't require a diving stop or a lunging grab that belonged on SportsCenter.

"I had one of my best games," he said. "Except for the first goal, I thought I played well."

He also caught the attention of the opposing coach, Jim Davidson.

"Their keeper had an outstanding game," he said. "We made him look good at times, but he was all over the place."

Most of the game involved Broomfield taking shots on the goal or attacking in the defensive zone. The Eagles finished with 29 shots on the goal. Coming into the game, the Eagles had scored 82 goals.

Broomfield's inability to get past Hillewaert frustrated Davidson.

"I really thought we didn't come out and play like we are capable tonight," he said. "We're going to have to sit down and have a talk, because that was the 31st seed. It's a good thing it wasn't the 12th."

The Eagles gave Moffat County a scare early in the game. Two minutes and 37 seconds into the game, Ryan Garren snuck in on the left side and beat two defenders for a goal.

The Bulldogs nearly answered back 10 minutes later when Pepe Loya hit a shot from 20 yards out that was deflected by keeper Alex Hanson and rolled backwards. Hanson jumped on the ball to make a save by inches.

That shot was Moffat's only real threat in the first half.

Hillewaert endured 14 shots in the half and almost kept the Eagles to one goal, but with 14 seconds left, Marlin Boyer's shot was slightly deflected by Hammond and went the opposite way of the goalie's initial dive. At halftime, Broomfield led Moffat County, 2-0.

"I told the guys to pick it up one step faster in the second half," coach Jeff Hammond said. "And they responded."

The Bulldog defense gave Hillewaert a rest in the first 10 minutes of the second half. Broomfield had three shots on the goal, and none were difficult saves.

Loya proved why he was one of the top scorers in the state this year, even with limited touches, in the second half. Sixteen minutes into the half, senior Nate Berner lobbed a ball over the Broomfield defense, and Loya outran the defense and beat Hanson to bring the Bulldogs within one goal.

"I really thought we could get it after that," Schuyler Hammond said. "We had the momentum."

The frustrated Eagles started to get whistled for more fouls and were questioning the referees for the rest of the half.

"For a top team in the tournament, I think the first half of the first game is always tough," Davidson said. "But we didn't play that well the second half, either."

Twice in the game the Eagles had goals negated by offsides calls, but in the 60th minute, Dan Sheirman broke the trap to give the Eagles some breathing room at 3-1.

After that goal, Hillewaert continued his mastery of the save, and the clock ran out.

In the final post-game talk of the season, the Bulldog team was emotional -- just as much from joy as disappointment.

"These guys have nothing to hang their heads for," coach Hammond said. "I'm just so proud of them."

Hillewaert and Schuyler Hammond were proud of their effort compared to last year's first-round 6-1 loss to Mountain View.

"We reached our goal of making the playoffs last year and then quit," Hillewaert said. "This year we came to prove ourselves."

Davidson thought his opponents did just that.

"They made a statement," he said. "You have to give them credit because they played better than a 31 seed."

Coach Hammond was proud of how far his guys came this year.

"It was a great effort that was the top of our game," he said. "I wish we could have had two more scores, but the only sadness I have is that I can't have my son for another game."

Schuyler Hammond was proud of his young teammates.

"We had three starters back from last year," he said. "To come out and put up a fight with such a young team, it's something to build on."

The Bulldogs finished the season 6-9, but the asterisk that deserves to be hung on the season is how they went out.

"You guys made history," coach Hammond said to his son and Hillewaert. "You can't ask more."

The Bulldogs will return with all but five players next year but will have no seniors. CHSAA are you paying attention? The Bulldogs plan to be back.

David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or dpressgrove@craigdailypress.com

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