Rams finish season on positive note
CARBONDALE – It wasn’t a hot day. In fact, Roaring Fork High School head soccer coach Mike Baumli was wearing a fleece at the end of the game.
Nonetheless, when Rams players poured a water bucket over the head of Baumli, he said it felt good.
After a preseason that almost saw the Rams’ soccer program disappear entirely, and a first half of the season in which the squad didn’t notch a league victory, Roaring Fork capped a strong finish by evening its season series with crosstown-rival Colorado Rocky Mountain School with a 2-0 shutout on the CRMS campus.
“We had a couple of bad breaks (early in the season) … and if we had everybody eligible we might have had a run,” Baumli said. “But the character this team showed, to not quit and keep fighting, is maybe a better life lesson.”
The Rams (3-6-1 3A Western Slope League, 5-9-1 overall) didn’t qualify for the postseason, but finished with just one loss in their final five games.
The roll started with an upset over league-leading Basalt. The Rams also had a victory over playoff-bound Aspen and tied Eagle Valley, another playoff team.
But the game against CRMS (1-12) is always big, especially so after the Oysters won their only game of the season against Rams on the RFHS campus earlier in the season.
“The first game (against CRMS) we didn’t show up. Our heads weren’t in it,” said senior captain Ben Wright. “This, being our last game, we didn’t have anything to lose.”
A big reason for the Rams’ turnaround has been the addition of Arnold Hernandez, whose play in the in the offensive end took much of the defensive pressure off Wright.
Hernandez, who joined the team in late September, got the Rams on the board early, beating Oyster goalie Reid Johns roughly midway through the first half.
“(Hernandez) gives us a lot more control in the midfield and sets up the offense,” Baumli said.
“He has helped us a lot,” Wright added. “Without him, half the plays we do we wouldn’t have been able to make.”
In the second half it came down to Wright and the rest of the Rams defense.
“That kid’s stellar,” Baumli said of Wright. “He’s such an awesome player – awesome work ethic and leadership. He pretty much was the one who saved this program by not going to play for Basalt.”
While the Rams played well down the stretch, the Oysters had their chances.
In the closing minutes Rams goalie Matt Pusack had to scramble his way to a save on a loose ball in the goal area, and, less than a minute later, Han-Sol Kim just missed the upper right corner on a shot that would have tied the game.
Roaring Fork’s Bryant Maggert sealed the contest after Jason Ibanez carried the ball across the front of the goal before feeding the senior for a 2-0 lead with just minutes remaining.
Pusack finished with eight saves in the shutout, while his counterpart at the other end, Johns, notched 11 saves.
Roaring Fork finished one victory out of the playoff race. Basalt won the league title, followed by playoff qualifiers Vail Mountain, Aspen and Eagle Valley.
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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.