Shooting for the grand finale
First-year Glenwood Springs High School soccer coach Bob Guska calls the duo of Ross Smith and Derek Weller his one-two punch, his finale.
The boxing metaphor is an apt one, given that it is usually Smith or Weller delivering the knockout blow to opposing teams. The two forwards accounted for 28 of the Western Slope League champion Demons’ 40 goals this season.
“The thing with them, once they get the ball they have the speed and ability to score,” Guska said. “Once we get the ball through to them they’re the finale. Everything is focused on getting them in position to score.”
And it’s a role both players relish as the WSL No. 1-seed Demons head into the Class 4A Regional playoffs against sixth-seeded Brighton out of the Skyline League. The contest is set to kick off Saturday at noon at Stubler Memorial Field.
“One of us is going to score in every game,” Smith said. “I don’t think there has been a game when one of us hasn’t scored.”
Smith, a senior, is currently tied for fourth on the state’s 4A goal scoring list with 16 tallies on the season. Weller, a junior, is tied for 13th with 12 goals. Only three other teams in Colorado’s Class 4A have more than one player listed in the top 15.
“When you’ve got combos like that it helps a lot,” said Guska, whose offensive coaching philosophy lends itself to certain players accounting for the bulk of the scoring.
“A dominant team has got to have dominant scorers,” he added.
And with two dominant scorers the team is that much better. Smith missed two games early in the season due to a back injury, including a 3-2 upset loss to Moffat County. With both Weller and Smith in the lineup in the regular-season finale rematch against Moffat County, Smith tallied two goals in a 4-0 Demon victory.
“It balances out the amount of work we have to do with (Smith) up there,” Weller said. “It’s a lot easier.”
Smith and Weller agree, however, any goal they score can be traced back to the defense and through the midfield.
The defensive play and goaltending has been solid this season for Glenwood – both in keeping the ball out of the net and feeding the forwards. Senior goalie Buster Bosna has four shutouts on the season and has allowed just 14 goals in nine games.
“Buster’s been extraordinary all year and the defense seems to be peaking at the right time,” Guska said.
The defense will, however, be a bit short-handed against Brighton. Senior Marcus Bernier was tagged with his third yellow card of the season against Moffat County and will be forced to sit out Saturday’s contest.
His expected replacement, Pablo Fuentes, is ineligible this weekend, so Guska plans to move freshman halfback Patrick Shepard back to stopper. Cisco Tharp will play sweeper, while Joey Murray and Alex White will play on the outside in the defensive end.
And, on paper at least, Brighton (4-5 in the Skyline League, 6-7 overall) doesn’t seem to have a ton of firepower. The Bulldogs’ top scorers are Matt Hayes and Josh Dean with three goals each. Brighton has been outscored this season 32-20 – a goal total eight less than that of Smith and Weller, alone.
The Demons (7-2-1 WSL, 10-3-1 overall) won’t change any strategies for Brighton, but getting an early lead will be more important than usual as Guska would like to be able to pull his players who have two yellow cards off the field as soon as possible. And, of course, it’s always nice to play with the lead.
“Nice fast starts usually get a lot of goals for us,” Weller said.
“Our goal is still to take it to the other team and score goals right away,” Guska added. “Then we can play defense and preserve some guys.”
Murray, Weller, Smith and Jason Granato all enter the game with two yellow cards this season. Unless the player receives a third yellow or a red card in Saturday’s game, everyone will start with a clean slate when the round of 16 begins next week.
While Glenwood has the decided advantage in offense and record, the Bulldogs will also have to contend with the unfriendly confines of Stubler Memorial Field. The Demons are undefeated at home this season and Guska hopes a bigger crowd than usual will be on hand to see what could be Glenwood’s final home game of the season.
“If we could rock and roll with a crowd it would be great,” Guska said.
With a victory, particularly a decisive one, the Demons could host the round of 16 game, but it’s unlikely given the lack of exposure Western Slope teams get. Seedings for the round of 16 next week are expected to be decided Sunday.
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