No. 4 Roaring Fork jumps on No. 13 St. Mary’s early, cruises to 4-1 second-round win
The No. 4 Roaring Fork Rams raced out to a 2-0 lead Tuesday afternoon at Carbondale Middle School before cruising to an impressive 4-1 win over the No. 13 St. Mary’s Pirates in the second round of the 3A Colorado High School Activities Association’s state playoffs.
Playing in cold, windy conditions, the Rams relied on quick strikes, physical play, and the Pirates playing right into their hands defensively, rolling to the win at home to move on to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, putting them right back in the same position as last season at this time of year.
Making the trip from Colorado Springs, the Pirates had a tough time getting up to speed Tuesday afternoon, leading to the Rams jumping all over them from the opening whistle before senior Aidan Sloan slotted home a left-footed volley in the box just over seven minutes into the match, staking the Rams to the ever-important 1-0 lead.
Following Sloan’s opening goal, the Rams had two quick chances as Sloan tried to back-heel a low cross into the box from junior Dylan Webster, while senior Joe Salinas’ header attempt off of a long throw-in skipped wide right of the far post, forcing the Pirates to try and bail water out of the ship early in the first half.
Continuing to apply heavy pressure on St. Mary’s goalkeeper Gabe Calhoun, the Rams broke through again eight minutes later as Webster redirected a shot into the box by senior Liam Laird, catching Calhoun leaning the wrong direction, giving the Rams a 2-0 lead.
St. Mary’s quickly responded, though, as Calhoun boomed a goal kick that bounced over the Roaring Fork back line, where senior Connor Timmins tracked down the loose ball and fired an odd-angled shot into the top left corner of the net past Roaring Fork senior goalkeeper Leo Loya at the 24:37 mark of the first half, making it a 2-1 game despite the Roaring Fork dominance.
“I was super impressed with how we started the game,” said Roaring Fork head coach Nick Forbes. “It’s a key element to our game; we try and start strong and put a goal or two in to try and control the game there and keep the opponent at an arm’s length. Once we do that, we can let them come at us, which plays into our hands. The first 15 or 20 minutes is a huge mental part of the game. Our guys are on it. The captains take on a serious amount of responsibility, and the coaches are really into this. It’s a collective effort right now for sure, and it starts at the beginning.”
The game remained 2-1 heading into the half despite another strong header late in the half from Salinas that Calhoun saved.
Coming out of the locker rooms at the half, the Rams picked up right where they left off in the first half, jumping all over the Pirates again, as Sloan drew a free kick just outside the attacking 18-yard box early in the first half.
Taking the free kick, Roaring Fork senior Max Candela had his shot blocked, but sophomore Alvin Garcia drew another foul on the Pirates as the game started to get chippy, resulting in another free-kick chance for Candela. This time, the senior fired a great strike through the box that Calhoun was able to tip wide right, keeping the game at 2-1.
It appeared the game wouldn’t stay that way for long though as senior Lucas Schramer drew a free kick from roughly 30 yards out, setting up Candela again. The third free kick for Candela was a strong one that bounced on goal, causing Calhoun to mishandle the ball as it bounced back out to Webster in the box. The junior slipped a shot under the diving Calhoun for what appeared to be the third goal, but after a conference in the attacking box, the officials waved off the goal — much to the bewilderment of the home fans and Roaring Fork coaches.
The game remained at 2-1 before Candela made sure the next goal wouldn’t be called off. Laird made a great run down the right wing and drew a penalty in the box against a St. Mary’s defender, leading to Candela’s penalty kick at the 29:43 mark, making it a 3-1 game for Roaring Fork. Candela’s penalty kick was a redeemer for him from a loss to Basalt earlier in the season.
“It felt great to be able to bury that one in this spot,” Candela said. “This one had more pressure considering the stage. The one I missed at Basalt I was thinking too much and changed how I kicked the ball, but not this one. “
Holding a 3-1 lead, the Rams tacked on one more goal in the physical affair for good measure as Webster fired a low cross to Sloan in the box on the left post. Sloan redirected it into the back of the net for the 4-1 lead with 15:36 goal, sending the Rams into the quarterfinals of the 3A state playoffs. The assist to Sloan was Webster’s second of the day, continuing a strong run of play up front for the Rams.
“He’s [Dylan] just always in the right place at the right time, and he always knows where he needs to be and what the best play is,” said Sloan following the win. “He’s so reliable, and he’s just a great player for us.”
With the win, the Rams now await the winner of No. 5 Salida and No. 12 DSST: Green Valley Ranch on Thursday.
The quarterfinal matchup will likely be played in Carbondale on Friday night or Saturday morning, depending on the outcome of Thursday’s second round game between Salida and Green Valley Ranch.
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