RIFLE - All the running coach Ryan Mahler puts his Rifle boys soccer players through paid off Thursday.
After struggling at the outset, Mahler's Bears found their legs and wore down visiting Moffat County for a 3-1 win that snapped a three-game losing streak and leveled Rifle's 4A Western Slope League record at 3-3.
The first thing one Bear mentioned in pinpointing where things went right was Mahler's strict training regimen.
"I think we just got more conditioning," senior Ricardo Salgado said. "He runs us a lot. A lot of suicides. It helps."
Salgado certainly didn't look tired in putting the game out of Moffat County's reach late, giving his team a 3-1 edge with a breakaway goal in the 64th minute. Kyle Zumbrennan assisted on the lead-padding score.
The game didn't start out so positively for Rifle, which allowed the visiting Bulldogs to creep deep into their defensive zone for a number of scoring chances early on.
One such moment occurred in the game's seventh minute when Bear goalkeeper Keith McCutchan had to reach high to stop a long Bulldog free kick.
Other chances developed out of corner kicks, including a shot that pinged off the crossbar.
Eventually, Rifle reversed the momentum and started producing its own chances.
In the 23rd minute, Jose Salazar and Brandon Borgard paired on the Bears' first goal, with Borgard setting up a Salazar breakaway with a long forward pass. Moffat keeper Adrian Gonzalez charged Salazar with hopes of diffusing the threat, but the latter managed to get a shot off into an open net before that happened.
Rifle made it 2-0 early in the second half when Borgard directed a well-placed cross to Julio Aguirre, who converted a short-range goal.
Moffat County evaded a shutout in the 59th minute when freshman Jorge Gonzalez got all of his leg behind a shot from just outside the 18-yard box.
It was a bright spot on an otherwise tough day for the Bulldog soccer team and coach Rusty Cox.
"We came out good, but we just quit," the first-year coach said. "We can't do that. They're beating themselves. They're not playing as a team."
Moffat County senior Spencer Wayman agreed.
"The first 20 minutes we played as a team," he said. "We were talking to each other, picking each other up."
"Then we started getting mad at each other," sophomore teammate Victor Villa added.
Mahler, on the other hand, saw his team improve as the game wore on, particularly in the second half.
"We were attacking better than we had been," the first-year Rifle coach said. "We had some good opportunities. We probably could have had more, but I'm just happy we got out of here with a win."
Mahler's Bears improved to 3-5 overall, while Moffat County dropped to 2-6 overall and 1-6 in the 4A WSL.