CARBONDALE — The big stage was set, hometown fans and all, but the lights might have been just a bit too bright for the host Roaring Fork High School boys in the opening round of the Class 3A state soccer playoffs Friday night.
The Rams, entering the 32-team tournament as the No. 8 seed and hosting the opening round games in Carbondale, lost a hard-fought game 1-0 to 25th seed Fountain Valley to end their season at 11-3-2 overall.
The Danes (9-6-1) of Fountain Valley advance to today’s second round against Faith Christian, 5-2 winners over Telluride in the other first-round game in Carbondale Friday.
“We played hard, but I think we got a little phased by the big occasion, with it being the first time we hosted a playoff and having all our fans here,” said first-year Rams’ coach Nick Forbes. “We just played a little out of our heads tonight.”
Slack marking by the Rams defense on a Fountain Valley indirect kick at the end of the first half led to the one and only goal of the night, when Danes sophomore Manolo Jiminez found the corner of the net on a rebound.
“We didn’t mark up as well as we should have, and let their guy free,” Forbes said. “The whole team has had some defensive discipline issues, and it came back to haunt us when we needed it most.”
Roaring Fork controlled the ball for much of the game, although the teams appeared evenly matched in the backfield. The Rams had 15 shots on goal to Fountain Valley’s eight. Danes’ goal keeper Griffin Shelor had five saves, while Roaring Fork keeper Alex Fisher stopped three.
Several scoring opportunities for the Rams in the second half sailed high, including an indirect shot by senior Ben Carpenter in the 63rd minute of play following a penalty on Shelor for an illegal pick-up by the goalie.
Rams junior Lalo Clemente also had a couple of chances on breakaways earlier in the second half, but failed to get the shot off in time.
“We just took too long to shoot on some of those,” Forbes said.
“It was a good season, and it’s always a bummer to go out this way,” he said. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
Senior Zach Ritchie said the team “kind of gave up” after the goal to end the first half.
“It didn’t seem like we really wanted it bad enough, and we weren’t playing to our feet,” he said. “We’re better than that.”
Still, “It was a great season,” Ritchie said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team.”
Fountain Valley coach Byron Dacy credited the host team, and said the Rams deserved the eighth seeding.
“They have lightning speed up front that gave us some problems,” Dacy said. “They definitely had their opportunities, and we took our one good opportunity and converted it.”
Today’s game between Fountain Valley and Faith Christian will be at 1 p.m. at the Rams stadium, located next to the Carbondale Middle School.