Eaton leads ‘Horns into quarters
Two was Basalt’s lucky number Thursday in the opening round of the boys class 3A state soccer tournament, as the Longhorns downed Fountain Valley.
Basalt won 2-1, midfielder Cyrus Eaton had two goals, and goalie Jamie Wirkler had two brilliant saves in the final two minutes of the game.
“It’s incredible,” Eaton, a junior, said about the victory. “There’s nothing better than to win at home in front of our fans – it’s the best.”
The victory launched BHS into the quarterfinals of the playoffs, where it faces the winner of today’s Salida-Denver Lutheran match. The time and location of that match has yet to be determined, but it must be played by Wednesday.
While the Longhorns dominated the time of possession, consistently pressuring Fountain Valley in the first half, the game was scoreless at the break.
Sanchez, the Longhorns sensational sophomore forward, had several shots on goal, but most followed long sprints that drew Fountain Valley’s goalie out of the net for a challenge.
“Those sprints are lethal, they kill me,” Sanchez said.
But they paid off.
Eaton’s first goal came off a rebound as Fountain Valley’s goaltender and Sanchez simultaneously converged on the ball. The ball slipped through the goaltender’s hands and into Eaton’s feet.
“I just tapped it in,” Eaton said.
Minutes later, Sanchez was illegally taken down inside Fountain Valley’s goalie box, resulting in a penalty kick. Eaton took the kick and easily beat the goaltender for his, and Basalt’s, second goal of the game.
“It’s the same routine, I never change my spot,” Eaton said about penalty kicks. “It’s just repetition, like free throws.”
Up 2-0 midway through the second half, Basalt started to play defensively and on their heels, giving Fountain Valley more opportunities than they deserved. When Fountain Valley scored with roughly 10 minutes left in the game – a chip shot over BHS goalie Jamie Wirkler – the Longhorns found themselves playing desperate prevent defense, instead of their usual, calculated style.
Eaton said the Longhorns have unfortunately fallen into that trend at the end of games. Asked if they would work on that before their next match, Eaton replied, “Yeah, we need to for sure.”
Erik Streff, the Longhorn’s head coach, credited Fountain Valley with the game ending surge.
“(Fountain Valley) stepped up big at the end,” Streff said.
But so did the Longhorns goalie, sophomore Jamie Wirkler, who, under heavy fire in the final minutes of the game, made two fingertip saves in traffic to secure the victory.
“Jamie always comes up big for us in the end,” Eaton said. “He’s a great goalie.”
Wirkler said he was just doing his job.
“My coach told me not to let another one by,” he said.
Basalt, seeded sixth in the state tournament out of a field of 16, improved their overall record to 11-2-1. While they’ll have to wait for the outcome of the Salida-Denver Lutheran match, most of the Longhorns think they’ll face Salida, who’s undefeated and seeded third. Denver Lutheran is 7-9 and seeded 14th.
“We have as good a chance as any,” Eaton said about winning the next round to move onto the semifinals. “We just peaked, hopefully it gets better from here.”
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