Rams hang tough, top Titans
CARBONDALE — Roaring Fork High School’s boys soccer team built up plenty of momentum Tuesday night. It turns out they built up just enough to halt the momentum of the third-ranked Coal Ridge Titans.
Erik Carrillo’s two goals carried the fourth-ranked Rams for a majority of their Class 3A Western Slope League match at Carbondale Middle School, and Roaring Fork survived a late push from the defending league champion Titans in a 2-1 victory.
“Our team sometimes comes out with a little bit of hesitancy,” second-year Roaring Fork coach Nick Forbes said. “So any time we get a goal or something breaks our way, it cascades into this momentum in our favor. Once we start playing with momentum, there’s not a lot of teams that can keep with us.”
With that win, it would practically take an act of God for anyone in the league to keep up with Roaring Fork (12-2-0 overall, 7-0-0 3A WSL), which needs only a victory Thursday at Colorado Rocky Mountain School (2-6-0, 2-5-0 league) to clinch the league championship outright. The win also marked the first time the Rams had beaten Coal Ridge since 2011 — the year that each of Roaring Fork’s current seniors were freshmen.
“We have a 2-2 record against them in my four years here,” Carrillo said. “But it’s always better to get the last laugh.”
Coal Ridge (12-3-0, 6-2-0), which has won the past two league titles, nearly had the last laugh after falling behind 2-0. The Titans had a prime opportunity to score in the final seconds of stoppage time, but it went wide of the net right before the final whistle blew.
With that, coupled with a 3-0 victory by Vail Mountain over Basalt earlier in the day, Coal Ridge will likely be the third-place finisher in the league standings but will also likely be a shoo-in to make the Class 3A state playoffs. The Colorado High School Activities Association will announce playoff seeding on Sunday.
That’s something the Titans, who finished their regular season with Tuesday’s loss, are already looking forward to.
“This game is over,” coal Ridge coach Mike Mikalakis said. “Now we have the postseason to look forward to.
“I thought we played really well and had a really good game,” the coach continued. “But that’s the best I’ve seen Roaring Fork play in a long time.”
It was Roaring Fork’s momentum that made that possible. It started with Carrillo’s first goal, which came in the 25th minute off a corner kick from Aaron Palomera. Carrillo headed the ball in past goalkeeper Roman Plano, then jumped into the arms of his teammates to celebrate the Rams’ early one-goal advantage.
The Roaring Fork senior gave his team a 2-0 advantage in the 52nd minute, taking a back pass from teammate Ben Carpenter on the right side of the net and shooting it into the net to the far post from 20 yards away. Coal Ridge, however, cut its deficit to one goal when Juan Gonzalez punched the ball past Roaring Fork goalie Collin O’Gorman in the 71st minute off a rebounded shot from the right side of the goal box.
And Coal Ridge got their last chance when, in a crowd right outside the right side of the goal box, a Roaring Fork player was called for a handball. That set up an indirect kick for Enrique Bucio, the Titans’ leading goal scorer who is also among the nation’s leaders in assists.
Bucio’s kick went low and past Roaring Fork’s wall, but it also passed right in front of two onrushing Coal Ridge players who couldn’t reach it before it crossed the back line.
The final game whistle was blown immediately afterward, and Roaring Fork’s players mobbed each other while Coal Ridge’s players walked slowly back to their sideline.
“My heart wasn’t in my throat there,” Carrillo said. “I was holding it in my hand. Seeing that game end the way it did was just the best feeling ever.”
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.