Steamboat’s Mac Noel celebrates after scoring a second-half goal Thursday in the Sailors’ win against Moffat County. Although Steamboat pulled off a 5-0 victory, it wasn’t enough to claim the Western Slope League title as Battle Mountain’s win against Eagle Valley on Thursday gave the Huskies the upper hand in the tiebreaker.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat’s Mac Noel celebrates after scoring a second-half goal Thursday in the Sailors’ win against Moffat County. Although Steamboat pulled off a 5-0 victory, it wasn’t enough to claim the Western Slope League title as Battle Mountain’s win against Eagle Valley on Thursday gave the Huskies the upper hand in the tiebreaker.

Steamboat soccer wins big against Moffat County but doesn't take league title

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Steamboat's Mac Noel fights for a ball Thursday in a game against Moffat County.

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Steamboat Springs senior Enrique Lopez watches a shot sail toward the Moffat County goal on Thursday in Steamboat Springs. The Sailors downed the Bulldogs in the game, winning their final regular season game of the year.

— Steamboat Springs High School senior Mac Noel insisted it wasn’t a distraction.

Knowing that the Steamboat soccer team’s chance at a Western Slope League title was dependent on a game 75 miles to the south, Noel did all he could to make sure that glimmer of hope remained.

The senior finished with three goals and an assist Thursday at Gardner Field and helped Steamboat to a 5-0 win against U.S. Highway 40 rival Moffat County.

Unfortunately for Steamboat, Battle Mountain’s 2-1 win against Eagle Valley on Thursday meant the Huskies won the league title on the tiebreaker between the two teams: goals allowed against league opponents. Steamboat allowed 13, and Battle Mountain allowed 8.

“That game didn’t cross my mind that much,” said Noel, who along with fellow senior Enrique Lopez put on a dizzying display of soccer in the second half to seal the win. “We just worried about how our team did.”

That didn’t always seem the case early on. The two teams, which played to a 3-all tie earlier in the season, seemed a little too amped early.

Moffat would have good build-up after good build-up, but any sort of momentum in the offensive zone would be negated by long-range shots that helplessly would go wide or easily fall into the arms of Sailors keeper Carter Kounovsky.

In the 8th minute, Steamboat’s Lance Ostrom ripped a shot from just outside the box for a 1-0 Steamboat lead.

Moffat had a chance for the equalizer in the 32nd, but a free kick by Alan Flores was deflected away by Kounovsky.

“We were so out of sync,” said Bulldogs coach Rusty Cox, whose team played without starting keeper Johnny Landa. “All the guys are playing goofy and out of place. I told them to go have fun. It only mattered to me if they had fun.”

After a halftime speech in which Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann implored his team to “just be sharp and just be simple,” the Sailors took over.

It started in the 41st when Noel took advantage of a Bulldogs keeper mistake for a 2-0 lead. Two minutes later, Ostrom served Noel for a 3-0 lead.

Then in the 52nd, Noel centered it to Lopez, who left-footed it home to make it 4-0. Finally, in the goal of the night, Lopez chipped it over a defender perfectly to the feet of Noel, who popped it over the goalkeeper for a 5-0 lead.

“When Enrique and Mac have that connection, I can’t tell you any defense in Colorado that can stop those two guys,” Steamboat assistant coach Diego Girard said. “Today, they had three chances and three goals.”

The loss ends the season for Moffat County, despite tying for third place in the league. Per Colorado High School Activities Association rules, Durango, Montrose and Mullen drop into the league for the playoffs. Those three teams plus Steamboat and Battle Mountain will represent the league in the playoffs.

Now the questions is, where will Steamboat fall? Despite an impressive 12-2-1 record, it doesn’t look like the Sailors will garner a top 16 seed or a first-round home playoff game.

“I think we’ll fall somewhere between (seed) 14 and 20,” Bohlmann said. “Realistically, I think we deserve somewhere between 12 and 14. But I think we end up on the deeper side of that. ... Regardless, this has been one of the best regular seasons we’ve had in a long time."

The CHSAA seeding committee meets Sunday.

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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