Bucio’s lofty goal lifts Titans
PEACH VALLEY – Enrique Bucio is used to dishing out assists on the soccer field for the Coal Ridge High boys soccer team. On Saturday, Sergio Valentin provided him with the biggest assist a goal-scorer could get.
Bucio’s high, arching goal in the 57th minute off a 40-yard indirect kick served as a momentum spark for the top-ranked Titans, who used that momentum to pull away for a 2-1 victory over the third-ranked Salida Spartans at The Pasture.
“Sergio pretty much just distracted the goalie,” the Coal Ridge senior said. “He faked like he was going to do a header, and he basically pulled in all of the goalie’s attention.
“Then it went in,” Bucio said, smiling. “I was pretty lucky to get that shot.”
Lucky or not, Bucio added the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick with 11 minutes remaining to give Coal Ridge (4-0-0), the top-ranked team in the CHSAAnow.com Class 3A boys soccer poll, the lead for good. That came against a team in Salida (3-2-0) which, following a 2-0 loss to Pagosa Springs on Sept. 6, dropped from No. 1 in the poll to No. 3.
That set up a rare early season matchup between a pair of teams that had each been atop the state’s small-school soccer poll. And the victory could play a big factor in how the Titans’ seeding in the postseason is determined if the Titans make it there.
The way coal ridge coach Mike Mikalikis sees it, that’s a big if.
“This is great, but it’s over now and we’ve got to look ahead to the next game,” the coach said. “If something happens and our season falls apart, this game won’t mean anything. That’s why we have to focus and just look ahead now.”
Evan Coit’s goal in the 14th minute off an assist from fellow Salida forward Dustin Linza gave the Spartans an early 1-0 lead. Still, that was one of only four shot attempts — two on frame — that Salida had during a game where Coal Ridge held a 17-4 advantage in shot attempts. Des Lau played in goal for Salida, finishing with seven saves.
“We had a game under our legs already, and the pitch was incredibly heavy,” said Salida coach Ben Oswald, referring to his team’s 6-0 win at Alamosa on Thursday and the soccer field that was still soaking up rain from a significant rain storm earlier in the week. “I knew this ground as soon as I stepped foot on it that it would have an effect on us at the end of the day, and it did. We fell prey to playing into a direct style because we were tired, and when you’re tired, your brain goes away.”
Salida caught Coal Ridge during a momentary defensive lapse when Linza’s centering pass found Coit wide open for a 15-foot ship shot he punched in past Coal Ridge goalie Roman Plano. The Titans nearly scored an equalizer in the 26th minute when Juan Gonzalez punched a rebounded shot on goal into the net, but the goal was waved off after the east line judge ruled that Gonzalez was offside.
The Titans nearly found the equalizer again when Bucio — who is among the nation’s assist leaders — spotted a perfect lob pass to Valentin, whose header shot sailed just inches above the top goal post. But it was Valentin who set up Bucio’s goal three minutes later, as Bucio’s free kick sailed over the head of the crowd in front of the net before it landed, bounced three times and rolled untouched unto the net for the game-tying goal.
“[Salida] had an easy touch-in goal,” Mikalakis said. “We made a mistake, and we didn’t let it happen again. And instead of getting down on ourselves when we were down, we rose to the occasion.”
Bucio’s penalty kick came in the 69th minute when Julian Huerta was tripped by a Salida player in the far-right corner of the goal box. Bucio took the penalty kick and easily punched it into the goal.
The Titans begin Class 3A Western Slope League play Tueday at home against Moffat County.
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