EDWARDS — When word reached Battle Mountain soccer that Moffat had defeated Eagle Valley, 12-4, Saturday, the intimidation factor was there.
“That was a little jaw-dropping,” Huskies’ centerback Cody Hervert said.
“We have a lot of respect for Eagle,” Battles Mountain coach David Cope said. “If you add up all the goals we’ve scored against Eagle in the last four years, it doesn’t add up to 12, including one (in two games) last year. Obviously, people were a little shell-shocked by that result.”
For the trivially-inclined, Battle Mountain has scored all of 11 goals in its last seven meetings with the Devils. With the Bulldogs having scored 40 goals in running out to a 6-0 start, one could excuse the Huskies for thinking of Moffat County soccer as a bunch of rampaging Visigoths terrorizing Western Colorado.
But the Huskies came up with a plan to slow down the Bulldogs’ attack in a 3-2 victory Tuesday in Edwards, leaving Battle Mountain as the sole remaining undefeated squad in 4A Slope play.
“To beat a team that’s scored that many goals and run off that many wins is important,” said Cope, who team is 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the WSL. “I’m really proud of our guys.”
For the rapidly emerging Bulldogs (6-1, 2-1), Tuesday’s loss was a small setback.
“We’d have this game if we’d come out and played our game,” Moffat coach Rusty Cox said. “We came out and played OK, and then we fell apart. The second half, when we decided to come together and play, we were up 1-0 in the second half. It’s a learning curve. They’ve got to realize they’ve got to come out every game all the way.”
Battle Mountain, for all intents and purposes, ditched its traditional 3-5-2 formation for four in the back to counter Moffat’s considerable speed and to check the Bulldogs’ passes over the top.
Whether the Huskies played four true fullbacks or held back one midfielder is merely semantics. The Huskies’ backline played a bit further back than usual and the emphasis was winning the 50-50s and converting them to possession, keeping the ball from Moffat’s offense as a way of defending it.
Battle Mountain’s Josh Holmes drew the unenviable assignment of man-marking the Bulldogs’ Tracy Mendoza, a senior.
And naturally, after this meticulous game-planning, Moffat pumped a through-ball right over the top which Mendoza converted for 1-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.
“No. 11 is a good player. Sometimes, he gets one-touch passes from the kids in back and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Homes said. “You’ve just got to stick with him and be physical.”
The Huskies were, and Cox was clearly not pleased about it after the game. That said, Battle Mountain’s bench was also guilty of earning some calls during the game.
However, Battle Mountain’s possession game did tip the flow of the game enough in the first half. Huskies defender Bryan Aubel sent Brian Morales down the right side, something that’s becoming a regular sight, and Morales tied the game.
Battle Mountain freshman Alex Trujillo sprang Jack Sunderland for a breakaway. Sunderland had Morales with him, but the former drew out Moffat keeper Keegan Welder and then punched the ball into an empty net.
Sunderland’s second came courtesy of Morales on another breakaway. Morales faked the shot and chipped the ball to Sunderland for what would be a much-needed goal.
Moffat rallied late with another goal from Mendoza, but couldn’t find the equalizer.
As far as Cox is concerned, that will come with the teams’ second meeting on Oct. 7 in Craig.
“We’ll beat them when we come home. I ain’t worried about it,” Cox said. “At home, we’ll beat them. I’m missing one key player today who needed to be here. I’m not worried at home. I’m confident. I was confident coming into this game, and we still lose, and I’m still confident in this team.”
In the meantime, Battle Mountain heads to its house of horrors — a road game at Glenwood Springs Thursday — while Moffat hosts Palisade at 5 p.m. on Friday.