The Moffat County High School boys varsity soccer senior players walked onto the field Friday at Grand Junction High School for their final game as Bulldogs.
However, the players surrounding them weren’t the norm.
Already eliminated from playoff contention and losing seven seniors next year, head coach Rusty Cox decided to give the freshmen bench some playing time with the experienced seniors.
The result — a 5-0 loss to the Class 5A opponent.
“We started with the starting seniors and all freshmen and ended with a few seniors and all freshmen,” senior Jonathan Pando said. “We didn’t score, but Rusty said he wanted to give the younger players some much needed playing time. The game didn’t really mean anything, so Rusty told us to have fun.”
With a freshman goalie in net, senior defender Lupe Rodriguez said the defense wasn’t solid, giving up three goals in the first half.
“We knew we were out there to just have fun,” Rodriguez said. “The game went by too fast and we just didn’t have solid defense and suffered because of some injuries.”
Injuries were a mainstay for the Bulldogs’ 2011 season, which they finished with a 6-7-2 overall record and a 5-4-1 record in Western Slope League play.
A majority of the players had to sit out a game due to either injury or sickness at some point in the season.
Pando and Rodriguez agreed their final season went by too fast.
“It feels like just two weeks ago we were playing against Grand Junction Central in the season opener and now the season is over,” Pando said.
“I still remember my first game as a freshman and now it’s over,” Rodriguez said.
Coming into the season, Rodriguez said no one expected to even do as good as they did.
“We weren’t as good as last year, but we weren’t as bad as we thought,” he said. “We lost some great soccer players coming into the season and I wasn’t sure how our defense would hold up, but we did OK.”
The only big loss the Bulldogs suffered, Pando said, was a 5-0 defeat Sept. 20 at Battle Mountain High School.
“We held up and kept fighting in each game,” he said. “I lost some confidence because first I broke my nose and then messed up my ankle, but I had to overcome that and we did all right and had a lot of fun.”
Despite losing seven seniors — Pando, Rodriguez, Jorge Gonzalez, Cody Fallon, Johnny Landa, Carlos Maldonado and Maury Mirante — the Bulldogs will return two of their three leading scorers next season.
Junior Alex Perez scored 19 goals this season and fellow junior Alan Flores tied with Pando for second on the team with five goals.
Junior Bryant Cox and sophomore Nestor Arrellano will also return to help lead the defense.
Pando said he hopes the seniors were able to teach the freshmen players something before they left.
“The freshmen didn’t really have work ethic this year, so I hope we were able to show them the heart that we played with,” he said.
“If (the freshmen) tried something and didn’t succeed, they quit, so we want them to stick with things,” Rodriguez said.
Still, Pando and Rodriguez said the season had good moments despite missing the playoffs.
“The intensity level against Glenwood was crazy and we hurt them big time by beating them,” Rodriguez said. “And, beating Eagle Valley in overtime on the road.
“It sucks to go out losing our last game, but we had a good season.”
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