Moffat County soccer keeps fighting through losses to Steamboat, Coal Ridge
CRAIG — Half of it was Homecoming spirit, half was saying farewell to some longtime members, but Moffat County High School boys soccer’s Thursday game meant a great deal emotionally to its players and coaches.
MCHS took a 3-2 defeat in overtime to Steamboat Springs, as a golden goal by the Sailors won the rivalry between the two schools for another year.
Nevertheless, it was a matchup everyone on both sides concurred was one of the best between the Highway 40 foes in years.
Steamboat soccer last lost to the Bulldogs in 2010, followed by a tie in 2011, and it looked like it might be heading for another draw this year.
The Sailors scored early to get the Dogs on edge, but a foul against Josh Pando at the 20-minute mark led to Moffat County’s first goal, as Juan Loya booted in a penalty kick, only for Steamboat to score again a minute later.
After the half, Loya would have the same shot set up for him, as a Sailor hand ball too close to goal allowed him another chance against Steamboat keeper Ian Dahlen.
“I put a little more power behind it on that one,” Loya said, noting that, though Dahlen deflected the shot, it went right back to him to send it into the net on the rebound.
MCHS goalie Daniel Moore was on his game the whole second half, but couldn’t help limping a bit from overwork and finally had to be sidelined near the end of regulation play after a collision with Sailor opponents.
“He didn’t even want to come off,” said MCHS head coach Rusty Cox. “These guys put their whole heart into it.”
The game went into extra minutes, and Steamboat put the pressure on a worn-out Moffat County defense to come away with the victory.
The Sailors finished with one goal each for Quinn Connell, Murphy Bohlmann and Nick Kocik, and one assist each going to Bohlmann, Kevin Kaster and Jason Oehme.
Steamboat took 36 shots on goal, with Moore getting 20 saves, and Sailor coach Rob Bohlmann commended the Bulldog keeper’s “heroic” effort as a standout.
“Two sides to the game, and Moffat did a fantastic job defensively, getting numbers behind the ball, making it super-difficult, very disciplined,” he said. “For us, it was just about keeping your wits about you.”
MCHS’s Luis Tarango noted the Bulldog defense was clicking, thanks to good guidance by Rusty and his son and assistant coach Bryant Cox.
“Rusty’s kind of like the brains, and Bryant’s the mouth,” he said with a laugh.
Thursday was Senior Day for Bulldog soccer, saying farewell to eight upperclassmen — Loya, Tarango, Moore, Emanuel Quezada, Wyatt Nielsen, Tristen Walls, Robert Schmidt and Josh Turner.
A halftime ceremony invoked tears, as athletes provided parents with flowers and signed soccer balls to commemorate their time in the program. Speeches by the Class of 2018 recalled the good times, as well as imparting wisdom to younger players.
“You’ve seen what high school soccer is, now learn from everything,” Loya advised freshmen. “It’s going to be your team; you are going to be helping those lowerclassmen out. Just be committed, and have motivation.”
MCHS seniors still had one final home game to play Monday with a rescheduled match-up against Coal Ridge.
Bulldogs started strong on both sides of the ball and also took the opening score, as a free kick by Walls was finished off by Axeel Mendoza. The kick was a redo that had nearly ended in an earlier goal off a header by Nielsen.
Still, the Titans struck back swiftly and severely with a 5-1 halftime score. Mendoza scored again at the onset of the second half, but Coal Ridge ended the afternoon with a 9-2 win.
“We’ve got to pick it up from minute one, and didn’t keep our heads completely in the game at first, but we made some good, solid adjustments,” Rusty said. “Coal Ridge is a solid team, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Luis Tarango stood in for the ailing Moore for the first half, while Sabastian Hershiser played keeper for the last 40 minutes, one of many younger players to get more minutes, including Shane Balleck, Ramon Tarango and Canyon Chambers.
Hershiser said he was a little worried about “getting trampled on” but was able to keep “spatial awareness” in mind to play well.
“After the first shot was made, I thought I’ve just got to do my own thing here,” he said.
Moffat County stands at 2-10 and 1-4 in the 3A Western Slope League with road games against Roaring Fork, Grand Valley and Delta remaining.
“For some reason they play really good on the road, and we’ve seen what they can do against Steamboat, and it’s just a matter of being mentally prepared and ready to go,” Rusty said. “”I’m proud of every one of these boys.”
Craig Middle School’s fall sports programs had a hectic day Tuesday with home events against rivals Steamboat Springs for football and volleyball.