PEACH VALLEY — Coal Ridge High School’s boys soccer team had only one substantial goal-scoring opportunity against the Roaring Fork Rams on Thursday. Enrique Bucio made sure the Titans took advantage.
The junior midfielder found the net in the 24th minute for the only goal of the match, and the fourth-ranked Titans controlled possession and made enough of a defensive stand to prevent an equalizer during their 1-0 Class 3A Region 3 victory at The Pasture.
“We just played great possession ball today,” Coal Ridge coach Michael Mikalakis said. “If we’re not doing that, then I’m doing something wrong. So with the boys making that kind of stuff happen and making sure that’s how we played instead of making those big boots down the field is huge.”
The result could be huge down the road for either team. Coal Ridge (4-1-0 overall, 1-0-0 league play) got a leg up in the league standings against a solid team from Roaring Fork (4-2-1, 0-1-0). Both teams earned spots in the Class 3A State Championships a year ago, with the Rams making it past the first round and the Titans making it into the 3A Final Four.
But with six more league matches left on the league schedule, Coal Ridge isn’t looking ahead that far.
“We look at the next game. We don’t look down the road,” Mikalakis said.
Alex Fisher finished with five saves in goal for the Rams, who managed to clamp down defensively after Bucio’s goal gave the Titans the lead for good. Roaring Fork’s two legitimate scoring chances — one in the 56th minute and one in stoppage time — were both corralled by goalkeeper Isidro Contreras to preserve the shutout.
“Today, for some reason, we just didn’t show up and didn’t follow any sort of game plan,” Roaring Fork coach Nick Forbes said. “Yeah, I’m a little frustrated with it. We have a week off before we play again [at home against Basalt on Sept. 26], so this gives us a chance to fix some things and almost start fresh.”
The Titans started and finished the first half on the offensive, then used their ball-control game plan to take the lead for good.
Julian Huerta and Alex Guttierez led a push on goal before Huerta’s centering pass to Bucio from the upper-left side of the goal box. That’s when Bucio found an opening, juking a pair of Roaring Fork defenders before his right-footer into the lower-right corner of the goal went by a diving Fisher.
“I just cut one way, and they left me all that space,” Bucio said. “I was surprised that I had that much space to work with.”
Roaring Fork almost tied the match in the 56th minute when a 25-yard shot from Danay Herrera was pulled down by Contreras. Then in stoppage time, Ben Carpenter fed Misael Ramos in front of the net for an open shot from 20 yards away, but Contreras pulled that one down as well.
The Titans’ victory helped them rebound from a 2-1 loss at Delta on Tuesday, where the goals Coal Ridge allowed came on a penalty kick and an own goal. Considering the result of Thursday’s game, Mikalakis was out of character in considering the loss to Delta a good thing.
“In a way now, I think it was,” the coach said. “Things like those humble us. It shows us that anyone can come out and beat us on any day, and we know that now.”