Roaring Fork High barely edges Rifle in soccer showdown
In a face-off that exemplified the spirit of rivalry, Roaring Fork High School boys soccer narrowly defeated Rifle, 2-1.
Early in the first half, Rifle player Luis Mendoza came tantalizingly close with a shot that had fans catching their breath, but to no success.
Rifle goalkeeper Eduardo Espino showcased his mettle with a heart-stopping save just two minutes before the half-time whistle. Likewise, Roaring Fork rookie goalkeeper Noel Richardson kept the Rams in contention with two crucial saves, one just 11 minutes into the game and the other nine minutes later.
“It was never something that really crossed my mind,” Richardson said. “I had some friends on this team and they said they needed a goalkeeper and so I gave it a shot.”
As the second half commenced, Roaring Fork began to dictate the pace. Just three minutes in, senior Jose Canas nearly found the net. The Rams controlled the time of possession, signifying a shift in momentum.
It was Jacob Barlow of Roaring Fork who broke the deadlock with a well-executed penalty kick, giving his team a 1-0 lead. His standout performance also included an assist.
However, Rifle was far from finished. Eduardo Espino took matters into his own hands, slotting in a penalty kick with only 12 minutes left, leveling the score. But Bennett Jardine of Roaring Fork responded, netting what would be the winning goal with a mere nine minutes to go.
Reflecting on the match, Rifle Head Coach Jonathan Espinoza acknowledged areas for improvement.
“We have a lot to work on,” Espinoza said. “We are a good team, but we just need to be able to finish games against really good teams and continue to bring the intensity the entire game.”
Espinoza also praised the evolving ethos of his team.
“I think in years past these kids were playing for their names and for themselves,” Espinoza said. “To see this team work together in this game was great. It’s a step in the right direction and it’s what kept us in this game.”
Roaring Fork’s head coach, Nick Forbes, expressed optimism for the future.
“This is one of the most talented teams that I have coached from an individual level,” Forbes said. “That said, I think if this team starts playing like less of an individual team and more of a unit, we are going to be really successful. I started to see that towards the end of the game and I couldn’t be more excited to see where we go from here.”
For Barlow, the victory held added sweetness.
“It feels great to be able to beat not only a rival, but a really good team,” he said. “It’s always fun playing rivals. It’s always a close game and also a game that both teams really want to win.”
The Roaring Fork Rams next host the Gunnison Cowboys, 4 p.m. Thursday.
The Rifle Bears will travel to take on the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers, 1 p.m. Saturday.
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