Heart, hunger keep Moffat County soccer going in first win
For Craig Press
It was a different kind of setup Saturday afternoon on the Moffat County High School soccer field, but it may have been just what the Bulldogs needed.
MCHS boys took their first victory of the season against Gunnison, with a 2-1 total boosting the team’s spirits, as well as their coach.
“They came in a lot more mentally strong,” said coach Diego Quezada. “I also told them to be a lot more physical this game, which they did. That’s how you’ve got to be in high school soccer — be aggressive and make sure those passes get to their targets.”
The Cowboys are in their inaugural year within the boys soccer system, which keeps them strictly as a junior varsity squad, based on Colorado High School Activities Association guidelines. However, the MoCo coach was firm that his athletes not expect a lack of competition from a burgeoning program.
“I gave them a reality check,” Quezada said. “I told them Gunnison is doing really good, so keep humble. They might be a first-year program, but you never know. They might have amazing players and amazing tactics.”
After a Thursday match-up that saw the Dogs responding to an aggressive Roaring Fork offense, it was the blue and black shirts that were swarming the opposing goal this time.
Just before the eight-minute mark, Erik Payan hit net for the first Bulldog score of the season to get the team energized.
It was nearly five minutes more off the clock before the Cowboys got off another shot, after which Javier Fabregas, Roni Quezada and Eddie Olivera peppered the Gunnison goalkeeper with shots, with near-misses the outcome.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, were sailing most of their attempts above and around the box for MCHS goalie Sabastian Hershiser to stay relatively at ease.
Besides receiving a yellow card for amped-up intensity late in the 40 minutes, Bulldogs were feeling good at halftime and with a team huddle cry of “Stay hungry!” they headed back on the field prepared for more.
Fabregas drilled the ball into the Cowboy goal after three minutes to push the score further, and while many more Bulldog breakaways looked promising, none added to the scoreboard despite plenty more shots against an increasingly stubborn Gunnison defense.
On the opposite end of the field, a breakdown in MoCo communication resulted in the ball lazily rolling into the goal to give Gunnison a break with 20 minutes remaining.
All told, Hershiser earned seven saves, while the rest of the crew compiled 12 shots on goal.
The W was a confidence booster, which coach Quezada said was a solid way to build from the Roaring Fork match, with the Rams the defending 3A Western Slope League champs and the 3A state runners-up, going all the way to the finals with Kent Denver.
“They’re a very talented team, and we still held them to zero in that first half,” he said.
Though Saturday was formatted as a doubleheader, the day’s event on the soccer field was one full game followed by a 30-minute scrimmage setup as both teams got additional playing time for their full rosters.
The extra time helped coach Quezada get a glimpse of how some of his troops looked in different spots.
“I think I know now who my solid 11 are,” he said.
He got creative with the lineup as he subbed Hershiser in as a striker — which resulted in him nearly scoring in a sliding shot against the Gunnison goalie — and putting in Olivera as the Dogs’ keeper.
“During practice, I’ve done that, just messing around, so I said, ‘You know what? Put me in! Let’s see if Sabastian can score.’” Olivera said. “I almost just dropped the ball and started dribbling up.”
Olivera, one of four seniors on the team, noted that while the unusual spring soccer season has been trying in conditions — ranging from unexpected high heat at home to snow in Vail — the atmosphere has been congenial among his teammates.
“We’re slowly going up where we want to be,” he said. “We have a lot to learn, but we have high hopes. Everybody knows each other and knows their strengths and weaknesses. We all want to help out. We’re all having fun, and we all love each other.”
MCHS will next play Tuesday in Basalt and will spend Thursday on the road at Coal Ridge.
Apart from an as-yet-to-be-rescheduled home game against Aspen, the next time on their own turf will be Senior Night April 15 against Delta.
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