The Moffat County High School boys varsity soccer team took a step forward in 2009, and coach Rusty Cox expects a bigger step in 2010. The team is, back row from left, Adrian Hernandez, Jonathan Pando, Manuel Tarango, Eli Voyich, Inez Quezada, Tracy Mendoza, Dustin Carlson, Johnny Landa, Keegan Welder, Brandon Duncan and Victor Villa. In the front row, from left, is Ben Booth, Jorge Gonzalez, Erik Silva, Alan Flores, Favian Quezada, Alex Perez, Nestor Arellano, Bryant Cox and Lupe Rodriguez. The team’s mascot, Torro the American Bulldog, is pictured front and center. Not Pictured: Cody Fallon and Jorge Torres.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

The Moffat County High School boys varsity soccer team took a step forward in 2009, and coach Rusty Cox expects a bigger step in 2010. The team is, back row from left, Adrian Hernandez, Jonathan Pando, Manuel Tarango, Eli Voyich, Inez Quezada, Tracy Mendoza, Dustin Carlson, Johnny Landa, Keegan Welder, Brandon Duncan and Victor Villa. In the front row, from left, is Ben Booth, Jorge Gonzalez, Erik Silva, Alan Flores, Favian Quezada, Alex Perez, Nestor Arellano, Bryant Cox and Lupe Rodriguez. The team’s mascot, Torro the American Bulldog, is pictured front and center. Not Pictured: Cody Fallon and Jorge Torres.

Kicking it in

After years of maturing, MCHS boys soccer team ready for breakout season

MCHS boys varsity soccer 2010 schedule:

Time Date Place Opponent

1 p.m. Sept. 4 Home Montezuma-Cortez (3-11-2 overall)

5 p.m. Sept. 7 Away Grand Junction Central (3-12 overall)

4 p.m. Sept. 9 Home Roaring Fork (8-4-3 overall)

1 p.m. Sept. 11 Home Grand Junction (11-4-1 overall)

6 p.m. Sept. 16 Away Steamboat Springs (8-3-4 overall)

1 p.m. Sept. 18 Home Eagle Valley (12-4-2 overall)

4 p.m. Sept. 21 Away Battle Mountain (10-2-4 overall)

1 p.m. Sept. 25 Home Palisade (2-12-1 overall)

5 p.m. Sept. 30 Away Eagle Valley (12-4-2 overall)

1 p.m. Oct. 2 Home Glenwood Springs (8-4-4 overall)

4 p.m. Oct. 7 Home Battle Mountain (10-2-4 overall)

1 p.m. Oct. 9 Away Grand Junction (11-4-1 overall)

6 p.m. Oct. 12 Away Glenwood Springs (8-4-4 overall)

1 p.m. Oct. 16 Away Palisade (2-12-1 overall)

4 p.m. Oct. 21 Home Steamboat Springs (8-3-4 overall)

MCHS boys varsity soccer team at a glance:

Coaches:

Rusty Cox — third year

Ricardo Zaragozoa — first year

Seniors:

Manuel Tarango

Eli Voyich

Inez Quezada

Tracy Mendoza

Dustin Carlson

Keegan Welder

Brandon Duncan

Victor Villa

2009 record:

5-8-2 (4-7-1 in the Western Slope League)

By the numbers:

16: Of the 22 players on the team, 16 have been coached by Rusty Cox in the youth leagues.

7-6-2: The average 2009 record of the soccer team’s 2010 opponents.

With his boys soccer team just beginning to recover from their hardest conditioning drill of practice, Moffat County High School coach Rusty Cox decided to have a little fun.

“Watch this,” he said, as sweat dripped from his athletes’ faces.

“Alright, do it again. This time in reverse.”

Team members quietly lined back up on the field and started the grueling conditioning again.

“Two years ago that wouldn’t have happened like that,” Cox said. “Everybody would have complained and whined about having to do it again.”

Cox, whose priorities are attention to preparation rather than being a stern taskmaster, let his team get one time around the soccer field before relieving them of the drill.

By then, he said he’d seen all he needed to.

“This year is a totally different,” Cox said. “I think everybody is on the same page and I believe this team is going to do some great things.”

Growing together

When Bryant Cox’s Under-10 soccer team needed a coach, Rusty, his dad, took the plunge.

At that time, Rusty concedes that he knew little about the sport and didn’t pay much attention to it except when his son was involved.

“(Bryant) liked soccer since he was 5,” Rusty said. “My only interest came from that.”

Rusty stayed the coach as Bryant moved up the age groups from U-10 to U-12 to U-14. Eventually, Rusty started to learn the game. He also started to get to know a lot of the boys.

“We’ve grown and improved together,” Rusty said. “I’ve been able to learn the guys’ strengths and weaknesses and they’ve been able to learn about me.”

Cox estimated that he coached a core group of players in about 10 tournaments and dozens of games during those club seasons.

In the fall of 2008, the head coach position came open at MCHS and Rusty was hired. Bryant was in eighth grade, but Rusty knew a lot of the younger players on the high school team from his club coaching.

And growing pains

Rusty quickly learned that varsity high school soccer was a completely different game than Western Slope club soccer.

“My first year we didn’t have two-a-day practices,” the coach said. “I didn’t prepare them well for the level of competition we would face.”

During that first season, Cox said that he had people tell him that his team was out of shape and wasn’t ready for the physical and aggressive style of the high school game.

“I’ll just say it was a very steep learning curve,” he said.

The first season wasn’t a total loss — the high-water mark came when the Bulldogs upset Steamboat Springs, 4-3, in extra time. It was the final game of the season, and the Bulldogs finished 4-10.

The win is still a highlight for Cox and the rest of his boys.

“Man, that was awesome,” goalkeeper Dustin Carlson said. “One of the best games I’ve ever played in.”

Last year, the Bulldogs improved to 5-8-2 overall. With the core of that team returning this year, the boys and their coach have high expectations.

“Playoffs,” said Cox, of this season’s year-end goals. “I don’t think we should think anything less.”

Whatever it takes

Senior Tracy Mendoza and junior Jonathan Pando are two of Cox’s leaders on this year’s MCHS squad. They each had Cox as a club coach and they recognized how everyone has grown together.

“We all learned that we couldn’t mess around and still win like we did in the club days,” Pando said. “Coach has learned that he has to be harder on us.”

The boys said that practice this year has been different.

“We know that it takes hard work to win in this league,” Mendoza said. “So we’re going to do what it takes to win and get to the playoffs. That’s why we didn’t complain about the extra drill. If we need to run more, we will run more.”

Players also have a sense of urgency because when they look around at their teammates, they see that the opportunity is now.

“We only have two freshmen,” Pando said. “So we know that there isn’t a lot coming up and that this is the year that we’re going to have the strongest team we’re going to have for a while.”

This year’s team has eight seniors and six juniors. Of the 22 guys on the team, 16 were coached by Cox before high school.

“It’s nice because I feel like everybody is on the same page,” Cox said. “We have fun when it’s the right time and we work hard at the right time, too.”

Fun times include memories of a team picture in a heart-shaped hot tub in Durango last year as well an interrogation by the police during a team dinner.

“It was all in good fun,” Carlson said. “This team does everything together off the field.

But, this year the difference is we’re going to win together, too.”

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