Cleveland scores twice to lead ‘Horns
BASALT – It didn’t take the Basalt Longhorns soccer team long to get the upper hand on Middle Park and advance to the state playoffs quarterfinals.
Spencer Cleveland scored less than 5 minutes into the contest and added a first-half insurance goal as the No. 5 seeded Longhorns downed 12th-seed Middle Park 3-0 in the Class 3A playoff action at Basalt High School Friday afternoon.
“He’s one of those seniors who stepped up,” Basalt coach Erik Streff said of Cleveland.
The game wasn’t as close as the score. The Panthers, out of the Metro League, had few scoring opportunities. Longhorn freshman goalie Jamie Wirkler finished the game with a shutout, while only being forced to make one save in the game.
“The defense (played) really well,” Streff said. “We got a tremendous effort out of (senior defenseman) Travis Schwan.”
The defense was solid when called upon, but, with the offensive pressure by Basalt (12-3-1), the Panthers (6-8-2) were rarely able to mount much of an attack. Most of the Middle Park players were forced to play back deep to help on defense. When the Panthers were able to clear the ball, it usually featured a one-on-four attack.
Cleveland’s opening goal came off an assist from midfielder Cy Eaton. Cleveland gave the Longhorns a two-goal cushion when he took a pass from Mitchell Reed down the right wing and beat Middle Park goalie Drew Barber to the short side with an off-angle shot.
Cleveland had opportunities to notch the hat trick in the first half, but was unable to convert on scoring chances – shooting one ball over the net and missing wide on another quality opportunity.
Middle Park was able to apply some pressure in the second half, but Hugo Aroujo sealed the contest with a shot into the net’s upper left corner from the top of the box for the 3-0 final.
Eaton finished with two assists in the game.
The Longhorns face fourth-seed Kent Denver on the road in the quarterfinal round. Kent Denver (14-3) advanced with a 5-0 win over Denver Christian.
“They are obviously a good team – Kent Denver is always good,” Cleveland said. “We’re just going to go into it the same way we came into this game – pumped up and ready to play.”
Quarterfinal games must be completed by Wednesday.
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.