Plenty of potential: Senior Night shows Moffat County soccer’s older strengths, younger talent
For Craig Press
Climate conditions couldn’t have been more scattered for the final boys soccer game of the season at Moffat County High School, but fighting through it as they have all spring, Bulldogs showed their tenacity.
MCHS wrapped up the year with a Thursday afternoon home game against Delta, a season finale that was a far cry from some of the toasty games they’ve seen lately.
The Senior Night tradition saw the squad pay tribute to their four upperclassmen and their families leading up to the game kickoff: Sabastian Hershiser, Eddie Olivera, Josh Ridgeway, and Gio Tarango.
Though a senior, this was only the second season on the team for Tarango, who was a strong presence for Bulldog soccer as a freshman. However, he opted not to play the following two years, only to be drawn back for his final year of high school.
“I came back for my brother Brayan. He wanted me to play and I decided I should,” he said.
No sooner had the match begun when the already chilly weather went up a notch with slight snow flurries and gustiness.
Nothing new for the home team, nor their opponents, but Delta adjusted quickly. Despite multiple attacks being negated by offsides calls, the Panthers were able to overwhelm the Bulldog defense enough to hit net frequently to earn a 4-0 halftime advantage.
The trend of trailing at intermission is one Tarango said tends to impact the sqaud’s confidence more than it should.
“The killer for us is we kind of gave up on ourselves, because we can compete with any team, but the second they score we get down on ourselves,” he said.
The snowfall halted by the second half, but the Delta aggression did not as they claimed another goal early in the half off a corner kick.
While MoCo players have grown used to being shut out this season, they weren’t about to end the year on another goose egg as they upped their approach on the Delta box.
Though a few too many opportunities fell apart, junior Erik Payan’s persistence paid off midway through the half as he was granted a penalty kick. Keeping his shot low to the ground, it rolled successfully past the Panther keeper.
Delta scored once more for a final tally of 6-1 against a Bulldog roster that was depleted and cold, yet in goal, Hershiser caught far more shots than he let past with 20 saves on the day.
While the defenders for the blue and black were playing their hearts out, the MCHS strikers were likewise going into overdrive, since for some it was their last chance.
“I didn’t have many looks today, but being there on defense was what mattered,” Ridgeway said. “I really wanted to try my best for Senior Night.”
Ridgeway has primarily played up front since joining MoCo soccer as a junior in 2019.
“Even though it’s still a new sport for me, it’s been one of my favorites,” he said. “I wish I would have played sooner, because I think I could be even better.”
Late in the game, an inexplicable flock of seagulls clustering around Delta’s side of the field — looking like if Alfred Hitchcock directed an ‘80s music video — drew laughs from the Bulldog bench, and though the game may have been one-sided, both teams were in good spirits as they gave each other a round of applause.
The 1-7 season for the Moffat County team — including a 2-1 win over non-varsity program Gunnison — was the first under coach Diego Quezada, who anticipates an easier time once boys soccer begins anew in the fall.
“I think I’ve really got a feel for it now, so we can go into a new season running,” Quezada said.
Besides a truncated schedule in a different part of the calendar for soccer, Tarango noted that the year of pandemic had a different negative effect.
“COVID really messed it up because it was really difficult to play as a team most of the time because we couldn’t hang out after school or do anything like that,” he said.
Even so, the experience was one the Bulldog senior enjoyed, and he said he expects strong performances to come from his younger teammates and coach.
“We’ve competed with the best, and I think we have a lot of room to improve with a lot of young talent. They’re probably going to be a lot better in the future,” Tarango said. “Part of the reason I came back here too is for Diego. He did a really good job for his first year. He did amazing, and he has room to improve too, but he has that potential.”
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On May 17, Moffat County High School acknowledged some of its best and brightest student-athletes for the Class of 2021 with the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award ceremony.