Introducing the newest contender into the foray known as Western Slope League soccer.
Although it’s still early, Moffat County made a league-wide statement Thursday in Steamboat Springs, downing its U.S. Highway 40 rival, 5-1.
But, the game wasn’t necessarily as much about the score as it was about the way Moffat County dominated.
Simply put, the Bulldogs — who have been on the ugly end of the rivalry, especially on Steamboat’s home field — grabbed possession and momentum from the first whistle, and seemingly never let it slip away.
“Everywhere I go, it’s always been ‘oh, it’s just Moffat County,’” Bulldogs coach Rusty Cox said. “But when we all get on the same page, we’re unstoppable.”
It appeared that way, at least in the second half.
After a scoreless first half finished without either side seeing a golden opportunity, the Bulldogs (5-0-0 overall, 1-0 in the Western Slope League) got the first big break of the game.
Steamboat’s Brandon Marr got tangled up with a slew of MCHS players in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for Moffat County.
Bulldogs senior Tracy Mendoza made the penalty kick count. After his initial blast was stopped by Steamboat keeper Joey Haight, Mendoza pounced on his rebound and scored his 13th goal in five games to make it 1-0.
“I guess I came in too hard,” Marr said. “I never go into a game wanting to hurt someone. You get unlucky. (Thursday) was a big disappointment for us.”
From there, Moffat County’s speed took over.
Alex Perez added two nifty goals in the 53rd and 71st minutes to make it 3-0.
Steamboat’s Mac Noel added some intrigue with a goal in the 73rd minute to make it 3-1, but Alan Flores notched the back breaker in the 74th minute and Jonathan Pando added some flair with a blast from midfield that found the back of the net in the 79th minute.
“After that first goal, we though Steamboat would get down,” Flores said. “That first goal, we said we have to ‘go, go, go towards goal.’ Now we have to keep going. It’s just the first five games. It doesn’t mean anything.”
Now the two teams have to regroup with most of the league schedule still ahead. For Moffat County, who now sits tied atop the league with Battle Mountain, the team plays next at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Eagle Valley. Steamboat (3-1-1, 1-1) plays at noon Saturday against rival Battle Mountain.
“It’s more of a psychological adjustment,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. “We’re on the road against Battle Mountain. We have to settle in and play with more composure.”