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Moffat County soccer has high Homecoming energy to win home opener

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
Erick Payan, center, shoots and scores during Moffat County soccer's win against Caprock Academy Thursday.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Things are already looking brighter for the Moffat County High School boys soccer team.

MCHS took the field Thursday for its first home game, a few days earlier than anticipated, but none of the Bulldogs were complaining with the 3-2 victory over Caprock Academy.

Originally planning to play Saturday, the game was moved earlier in the week to accommodate the crew of referees. It also wasn’t the first adjustment of the schedule for the Dogs, whose initial home opener Aug. 30 against Rifle was postponed.



MoCo boys got going Sept. 1 in Grand Junction with a 6-0 loss to Central, but the defeat a week prior didn’t bring them down during their Homecoming week event.

Granted, it was a tight first half against Caprock, as neither team yielded a goal for the first half-hour between errant shots and solid performances by their respective goalies.

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However, the Eagles caught a break about 6 minutes before halftime as they got past sophomore keeper Eli Gomez to make it 1-0 at the break.

A tie-up was coming soon, however, and two minutes into the second half, a boot by Lugo Perez that was more likely a crossing pass than a shot on goal turned into a score as it successfully snaked past the Caprock goalie.

The Eagles answered back about four minutes later with a triumphant free kick that went over Gomez’s head, which he swatted at only to get it into the net.

“I got my hand on the ball and pushed it backwards, but I thought I had gotten it over,” Gomez said

Edgar Hernandez runs with the ball during Moffat County soccer's win over Caprock Academy Thursday.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

MCHS coach Diego Quezada wasn’t too worried about it.

“That first goal was a defensive error, and the second goal he could have stopped it, but the sun was in his eyes. He just needs some more experience,” Quezada said.

Though not exactly teeming with extra athletes, the Bulldog bench proved an advantage over a sparse Caprock roster in the last 40 minutes of the game.

“We had a couple subs, they had no subs, so we just needed to tire them out,” Quezada said.

The Eagles’ weariness started to show with 20 minutes remaining as senior Erick Payan cut through their defense and knocked the ball into the box a mere 5 feet from their keeper as Payan showed his proficiency as a striker.

“First half, I was at midfield trying to hold position, but he switched me up,” Payan said of Quezada’s coaching strategy.

From there, the Bulldogs started to dominate possession, and with about seven minutes to go, Perez floated a long pass from the wing to Payan, again right in front of the Caprock goal, as he relied on fancy footwork to get around a multitude of defenders.

Payan said he could tell the Eagles’ main tactic was bunching up on him, which he took care of with skillful dribbling to fool them.

“They put a lot on me, but coach told me to take them on like that,” he said.

The resultant goal made it the Bulldogs’ game to lose, and when the final whistles came, the home squad and their fans were thrilled.

Quezada said his main worry was overconfidence for players going against a team that only had scored twice this season so far in a 2-4 start before coming to Craig, though they showed they could get it done.

“A lot more energy today, they were a lot more positive,” he said.

Besides two goals for Payan and both a goal and an assist for Perez, Gomez earned 15 saves, while the Moffat County offense had 22 total shots on goal.

Payan is one of the few seniors this season — along with Adrian Najera — and hopes to maintain a leadership role as the fall continues.

“It’s good to be in a role like that for me, trying to get the goals, trying to support everybody and do everything for the team,” he said.

MCHS boys are next scheduled to host Palisade Sept. 14 and travel to Aspen on Sept. 18.

Now 1-1, Quezada said he hopes the first W will lead to more as they take on more challenging teams.

“We want to stay positive, carry the win and keep going,” he said. “They’re not easy opponents coming up, but they’re manageable opponents, so if we can make it 2-1 or even 3-1, that’d be awesome.”


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