Longhorns stun Titans
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
BASALT, Colorado – Basalt soccer coach Brent Hayes implored his sideline to temper the celebration and “act like you’ve been here.”
His Longhorns could not help themselves, however. Moments after jogging to the bench following his second-half goal Tuesday against visiting Coal Ridge, Hector Chacon was swarmed. Zealous teammates piled on top of the beaming junior.
While his arms remained folded, the typically intense Hayes mustered a grin.
“You’ve got to love that,” he said later.
While a string of frustratingly close losses likely will keep it from capturing another 3A Region 3 crown, Basalt repeatedly has proven it can play with anyone, Hayes asserted. That was obvious after Tuesday’s resounding victory over the third-ranked team in The Denver Post’s latest poll.
The Longhorns utilized high energy, crisp passing and stout defense to overcome a one-goal deficit against the previously unbeaten Titans. They rolled to a 4-1 victory.
“To win that game on our field in that fashion, I was like, ‘Finally,'” said Hayes, whose squad now is 5-3-1 overall and 2-1-1 in conference play. “We put the goals in that we had to, we played great defense and withheld some of their great runs, and we beat a certain playoff team soundly.
“Frankly, I’m not surprised by the margin. We had it in us. We haven’t played a team better than us all year.”
Basalt clearly was king on this warm afternoon. Motivated by a large homecoming crowd – and by their one-goal loss to Coal Ridge (9-1-0, 3-1-0) in September – a resolute Longhorns team took the pitch. An early setback did little to faze them.
The Titans struck in the 18th minute, when senior Jorge Hernandez came away with the ball following a corner kick, gathered himself and ripped a shot past Basalt goalkeeper Adrian Lujan.
Little more than two minutes later, the Longhorns pulled even. Jerson Orellana wound up with the ball on a botched clear and fired a strike to Juan Abrego, who confidently connected from close range.
Orellana played the role of distributor once more about 10 minutes before the half, executing a perfect give-and-go with Salamanca, who scored from about 15 yards out.
“It was a bad thing, scary stuff when you’re losing to a great team,” Salamanca said, “but we kept our heads up and came back. It was a great thing.”
Added Coal Ridge coach Mike Mikalakis, “They came out and played excellent, and I give them all the credit. They communicated, passed well and made shots. We shot maybe five times all day, and that was the key.”
A 47th-minute penalty helped the Longhorns seize control of this physical bout. Moments after a Titans defender was whistled for what appeared to be a push in the back, Orellana finished with a low liner into the bottom corner.
“I’m not going to say a thing one way or the other – it’s their call – but that did hurt us,” Mikalakis lamented. “I think the game changed after that, but we kept on trying to fight and come back. Basalt was very aggressive and very well disciplined.”
That aggressiveness paid dividends in the 62nd minute against a defense that had allowed just nine goals in its first nine games. Chacon outraced a defender to a loose ball near the far post, then took a shot from a difficult angle that somehow slipped into the net.
He received a hero’s welcome on the sideline.
On the other end of the pitch, the tears began flowing soon after the final whistle.
“To me, with our record in the league, this was a must-win,” Hayes said.
“They thought it was, too; they were pretty upset to lose. They’re in the driver’s seat in the league as long as they take care of business, which I assume they will. That’s a great accomplishment for them, and as long as we’re second – or third, frankly – we’ll be fine. Having this win on our resume will look good to the people doing the seeding.
“We might not win the league this year, but we’re still the champs until somebody else does.”
Added Salamanca, “We think we’re at the top of the state, and it’s been hard not showing it. Today, we came out and made a statement that we are there and we’re going to fight for it. … We have to take care of business, but this is a big confidence boost.”
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