Tracy Mendoza, a Moffat County High School senior, heads in the first of his three goals during Thursday’s boys varsity soccer game against Steamboat Springs. The Bulldogs beat the Sailors, 3-1, and will go on to the state playoffs. The playoff schedule will be completed next week.

Photo by Andy Bockelman

Tracy Mendoza, a Moffat County High School senior, heads in the first of his three goals during Thursday’s boys varsity soccer game against Steamboat Springs. The Bulldogs beat the Sailors, 3-1, and will go on to the state playoffs. The playoff schedule will be completed next week.

Next on the schedule for MCHS soccer team — state playoffs

Air horns blasted, Silly String flew through the air, and anybody wearing a white and blue jersey was in danger of having ice water dumped over their head.

This was the scene Thursday afternoon at Loudy-Simpson Park, as fans and players alike charged the field at the end of the Moffat County High School boys varsity soccer team’s latest game.

But, the excitement wasn’t because of the end of the season.

It was for the beginning of the postseason.

The Bulldogs are on their way to the state playoffs for the first time since 2005.

A 3-1 win Thursday against Steamboat Springs gives the team an overall record of 11-4, 7-4 in the 4A Western Slope, the best season MCHS soccer has ever had.

With a bigger crowd turnout than any other home game of the year, Bulldog fans had plenty to cheer about in the first half, with a header goal by senior Tracy Mendoza, off a corner kick by junior Jorge Gonzalez. Mendoza followed up with another goal minutes later, to put the pressure on the Sailors, with the score 2-0 at the half.

“I was confident,” Mendoza said about his mindset at halftime. “But, we knew that Steamboat would come out with everything, because they didn’t want to lose either.”

The Sailors’ persistence was greater in the second half, as Enrique Lopez drove in Steamboat’s lone goal, although this was after Mendoza had already completed a hat trick, his sixth of the season.

Junior Jonathan Pando provided one of the assists for Mendoza, narrowly missing scoring a goal of his own, with the ball ricocheting off the crossbar.

But, Pando was among the most excited once the game was over.

“I feel accomplished after all the hard work we’ve put in,” he said. “To be part of the team that makes it is an unbelievable feeling. You get goosebumps up and down your whole body”

MCHS coach Rusty Cox expressed regret that the game edged the Sailors out of the playoffs, though he was more than happy with the results, even after his players dumped a water bottle over his head.

“It was no blow-out,” he said. “It was a fight right to the end. They played some amazing defense. They never stopped.”

Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said he was disappointed that the Sailors went out on a loss, but was congratulatory toward Cox and his team.

“It was a great season for us,” he said. “I feel like we definitely peaked at the right time and played some good soccer. We lost to a better team today, and we’re just excited that Moffat will be representing our league for us.”

The playoff schedule will be decided next week, but for now, Cox and his team are savoring the win.

Having coached MCHS for three years, this is the first time Cox has taken a team to the playoffs.

“This is all new to me,” he said.

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