Rifle edges rival Coal Ridge 3-2
RIFLE – Mark Knighton coached Thursday’s soccer showdown between Rifle and Coal Ridge with mixed feelings.”I was encouraging Coal Ridge quietly,” said the first-year Rifle head coach, who’s coached many of Titans in the past, “as much I was cheering our guys.”A 3-2 non-league win for the host Bears made such words easier to speak. And when coaching against kids you’ve coached in the past, kids who would be Bears had Coal Ridge not been built, experiencing jumbled emotions is understandable.Thursday’s game had all the elements of a rivalry in the making between the schools that sit some 12 to 13 miles apart – most notably dramatic, well-crafted goals and a back-and-forth storyline.It was the Class 3A Titans who struck first when Juan Rodriquez booted home a cross from teammate Fernando Alvarado just over 10 minutes in. Class 4A Rifle (2-3-1 overall) responded with a goal from Scott Rust, who scored by pure grit. The senior dispossessed the ball deep in the Coal Ridge zone – throwing his body into a passing lane to do so – before dribbling a few feet forward and launching a long-range bomb into the back left corner of the net. It took just over 2 minutes for the Titans to respond when, with 16:55 remaining in the half, J.J. Riddile headed home a corner kick by teammate Darwin Cortez.And then the fireworks stopped, at least until the second half when Rifle came roaring back.Rifle’s Evan Muldoon pounced on a ball just outside the penalty box and drilled home the tying goal some 2 minutes and 20 seconds into the second half.The score stayed tied until teammwork produced the go-ahead goal with 15:44 remaining. Out in the right flat, Muldoon and teammate Ricardo Salgado worked a little give-and-go play that freed up the latter in the corner. With time to craft a dead-on cross, the 5-foot Salgado beautifully lofted the ball to a waiting Garrett Babcock on the far side of the net. Babcock headed home what proved to be the game winner.”I was just trying to get in the right position,” Babcock said with a smile. “I knew Ricky would do his best to get me the cross, so I just tried to get through.” And that goal came with the Bears a man down after losing Rust to a double-yellow red card 10 minutes into the second half.”I feel bad for Coal Ridge,” Knighton said. “They’ve played so well, but they’ve just been snakebit.”Snakebit is a word for what the Titans have been through, losing close games in droves in posting an 0-6 overall record.”I’m afraid, at this point, I’m not sure what to tell (my players),” Coal Ridge coach Brian Blair said. “The talent’s there. They’re as good or better than every team we’ve played. You can’t teach love of the game and I think, unfortunately, we lose a little bit of that passion when things don’t go our way.”His team’s troubles aside, Blair enjoys the Rifle-Coal Ridge rivalry.”I think it’s great,” he said. “I wish we played them every year. It was a hard-fought game. A lot of people on both teams know each other. It’s a lot better than playing a non-league game somewhere in the middle of nowhere.”Rifle 3, Coal Ridge 2At RifleCoal Ridge20-2Rifle12-3First half – 1, CR, Juan Rodriquez (Fernando Alvarado), 29:40. 2, Rifle, Scott Rust, 19:09. 3, CR, J.J. Riddile (Darwin Cortez), 16:55.Second half – 4, Rifle, Evan Muldoon, 37:40. 5, Rifle, Garret Babcock (Ricardo Salgado), 15:44.
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They came. They skated. They conquered.