Longhorns, Titans settle for draw
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
BASALT – Basalt head soccer coach Brent Hayes admits the water cooler bath after Tuesday’s game was a tad unexpected.
“We still have some work to do,” the drenched coach said.
Still, Hayes’ squad took a big step on a frigid afternoon at Basalt High School – even with a draw. By virtue of their 2-2 tie with rival Coal Ridge, the Longhorns are assured of finishing with no worse than a share of the league title.
Basalt (11-1-1 overall, 6-0-1 in the 3A Western Slope League) can clinch a second consecutive outright conference crown with a win at Vail Mountain School (3-9) on Thursday.
The Longhorns and Titans (10-3-1, 5-1-1) squared off under similar circumstances last October in Peach Valley, with Basalt pulling out a 1-0 win to deny Coal Ridge a second straight conference title and a perfect regular season.
It was the Titans who were trying to play spoiler Tuesday.
It was the Longhorns who seized control early.
Much like he has all season, Willy Salamanca put the home team on the scoreboard in the eighth minute, knifing through a host of defenders on the far side of the pitch before ripping a low liner past Coal Ridge goalkeeper Tyler Guettler.
The momentum was fleeting, however. A resilient Titans side seized control for the duration of the opening half, repeatedly pressuring an undermanned Basalt defense. During one quick counterattack, a Longhorns defender whiffed on an attempted clear, leaving Coal Ridge’s Edgar Enriquez one-on-one with goalkeeper Adrian Lujan. Enriquez rattled the net with an accurate blast, squaring the game.
Little more than three minutes before the break, and shortly after a restart, the Titans’ Jose Rodriguez corralled a well-placed cross and drilled a shot past Lujan.
“Our backs were to the wall there,” Hayes said. “They were outplaying us so badly, probably worse than any team has this year. … We had only been behind two times this season. It’s hard if you’re not used to that. We panicked … and stopped playing our game. I was very excited to see that half end.”
The second half did not start auspiciously for the home team, either. In the first 10 minutes of the final frame alone, Coal Ridge’s Enrique Bucio narrowly missed a point-blank shot, and Jorge Hernandez’s attempted free kick sailed mere inches wide.
“For a big portion I thought we played even with them, if not a little bit better,” Titans head coach Brian Blair said. “In that first 10 minutes of the second half, they gave us a couple excellent opportunities to score a third and put them under serious pressure. They would’ve had to take more chances. When we didn’t, the momentum of the field switched, and they got us stuck at our end long enough that they got a scrappy goal. They almost always get a scrappy goal against us.”
With tension building to a fever pitch in the stands and on the home sideline, Salamanca attempted to head home a free kick in the 69th minute; he was denied, but teammate Josue Fernandez somehow managed to slip between Guettler and defender Cameron Dacuma and knock home the deflection.
“We were a little nervous after their second [goal] – we thought it was a big letdown,” Basalt defender Dylan Ahasic said. “We all controlled ourselves and picked our heads up and managed to hold them back, which is great.”
Both teams produced chances during the final moments of regulation, then two tense five-minute overtimes, but could not produce the golden goal.
“They had momentum and energy for a while and really had us on the ropes,” Hayes said. “You can never be too happy with a tie, but all things considered a tie gets us through if we take care of business Thursday. … It’s really good to have these close games against good teams.”
Added Blair, whose team closes out the regular season Thursday against Rifle: “Something tells me those guys aren’t going to lose their focus with one more game left. … [How we played today] was encouraging. Going into playoffs, that’s what I’m looking for.”
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