Central Warriors outscore Bears in season opener
RIFLE – Rifle got off just as many shots as Grand Junction Central in the boys soccer home opener on Thursday, the Warriors just happened to make more count in a 6-1 victory over the Bears. Rifle, a Class 4A team, fired off nine shots on goal in the first half and 10 more in the second half, but only one found the back of the net. Central, a 5A squad, totaled 19, but almost a third of them went in.”I am hugely proud of these guys,” said Mark Knighton, a former Rifle assistant who is now the Bears’ head coach. “As far as soccer goes, I thought we played as well or better than Central. It just didn’t show up on the scoreboard that way. There is a lot of positives to build on. They are a good team.”
It was junior Casey Johnson who led the Warriors’ charge, racking up a hat trick 35 minutes into the contest. Junior midfielder Kahler Grandbouche put up the next goal for Central, giving the Warriors a 4-0 advantage with four minutes left in the first half.Johnson’s third goal and Grandbouche’s were only 40 seconds a part and both were results of Rifle breakdowns.”We are a little loose in back, a little disorganized at times, but we’ll get that tightened up,” Knighton said. “We created a lot of offense, a lot of shots, we really had some nice combination balls, we possessed really well.”The next goal belonged to Rifle as senior forward Evan Muldoon centered the ball and fellow senior Scott Rust put a head on it, sending it past Central goalie Tyler Felker. It was the first goal in a long time for Rust, who, until Thursday, hadn’t played soccer since fifth grade. Rust, a star of Rifle’s basketball team, said his teammates were influential in his decision to cleat up again.
“All of these guys wanted me to play so I decided to,” he said.Halftime quickly followed Rust’s goal. In the second frame, Johnson didn’t waste much time adding to his goal total, directing a pass from Dakota Stewart just inside the left post eight minutes in.More than 25 minutes passed before the next goal, when Steve Palma dribbled down the right side of the field and scored on a kick that bounced off of Bear goalkeeper Jesus Valenzuela’s hands.
Rifle continued to battle and pieced together some good scoring chances late in the game, but couldn’t put the finishing touch on any of them.”What I am most proud of is down five goals late, they are still diving all over the field trying to win balls,” Knighton said. “I am immensely proud of these guys. There is no quit in them.”Rifle (0-1) will be off until Tuesday when it heads to Grand Junction and Central (1-0) will be back in action on Saturday when it hosts Glenwood Springs. “They have handed our lunch to us the past couple of years, so I am looking forward to playing them at our place,” Central head coach Larry Johnson said of Glenwood. “It will be a measuring stick to see where we are at playing against a team we did last year.”
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