Showdown with Battle Mountain has Glenwood soccer eyeing first league championship in 27 years
After a 4-1 loss at Montrose on Sept. 6 saw the Glenwood Springs Demons boys soccer team fall to 1-3 on the season, a players-only team meeting helped the Demons turn their season around in a hurry. Since that loss at Montrose, Glenwood has won or tied in 10 straight games, including win streaks of four and five games.
The run Glenwood is on has set the Demons up for a crack at a 4A Western Slope League championship. Currently, Glenwood sits second in the league standings at 10-3-1 overall, 9-1-1 in the league standings. The Demons are a game behind the Battle Mountain Huskies, a team that Glenwood tied 2-2 on the road on Sept. 20, marking the first time in eight years the Demons didn’t lose to the Huskies in Edwards.
On Tuesday evening at Stubler Memorial Field, the Demons and Huskies will battle for the league championship in what will be the biggest home game for Glenwood under fifth-year head coach Wayne Smith’s tenure.
Should the Demons win, they’d need help from the Steamboat Spring Sailors on Thursday. If Glenwood wins and Steamboat Springs knocks off Battle Mountain on Tuesday, Glenwood wins the league outright. If Glenwood wins on Tuesday and Battle Mountain beats Steamboat Springs, the Huskies win the league outright as Battle Mountain would have swept the season matchups with Steamboat Springs, while Glenwood lost one game and won the other game against the Sailors, splitting the season matchup.
Regardless, after a slow start the Demons are in a position they’ve been working towards for years as a group. Now it’s about seizing that moment and seeing that hard work pay off.
“This is what we’ve dreamed of [getting a shot at winning a league championship] since our freshman year,” said Leo Mireles, Glenwood’s senior midfielder, who sits second on the team in goals with 13 on the year. “This is what we play for. Obviously we’ve been trying to do this for the last four years, but this year has a different feel as a group. This group of guys is really focused on the task at hand, and we really want this.”
The group wasn’t as focused to start the year as the senior leaders would have liked, which led to that players-only meeting after the loss to Montrose. To hear some senior leaders talk about the start of the season, Glenwood wasn’t playing as a group, and wasn’t really devoting themselves to the team, rather focusing on individual accomplishments. According to junior defender Mitchell Burt, a stalwart on the back line for the Demons, the meeting led to some attitude adjustments, which ultimately recalibrated the Demons, putting them on the right track.
“We talked about everybody committing to the team,” said Burt. “We needed guys to focus on the team, rather than on individuals. It was definitely a turning point for us this season. We have a variety of guys on this team with personalities spread out all over, so I think it just took us a meeting to get everyone on the same page and focused on one goal.”
Since that meeting, Glenwood has outscored its opponents 52-11 while going 9-0-1 in that 10-game unbeaten streak, which includes wins over Steamboat Springs, Rifle (twice), Eagle Valley and Summit (twice). Tuesday’s home game against Battle Mountain shapes up to be the biggest game the program has played in since the early 1990s, when the Demons last won a league championship.
The last time Glenwood faced off with Battle Mountain, the Demons tied 2-2 with the Huskies in Edwards, proving to the current group of players that they can play with anyone. That confidence gained from that draw will need to carry over into Tuesday’s matchup for Glenwood to be at its best. They’re an exceptionally skilled team under Smith, and when confidence is high, skill level is high as well.
“From the draw, that’s a tough place to play up there [in Edwards],” said Smith during a recent practice at Sopris Elementary. “They’re always a competitive program, and they’ve been a monkey on our back because we’ve always been intimidated. We came close to beating them at home last year, so getting that draw up there this year was confirmation that we can compete with any team in the state. That’s ultimately what we took away from that game.”
Even if Glenwood falls to Battle Mountain at home, they’re locked into a top 3 spot in the 4A Western Slope League standings, meaning a 4A Colorado High School Activites Association state playoff berth is all but assured. A berth in the playoffs would be the first trip to the state tournament since Smith took over the reigns of the program five years ago.
It’s remarkable the progress Glenwood soccer has made in the last five years under Smith, going from winning five games a year in league play to on the brink of winning double figure games in a tough 4A Western Slope League.
The showdown with Battle Mountain was originally scheduled for Oct. 11, but heavy rain in the valley saturated Stubler Memorial Field, forcing the Demons and Huskies to reschedule to Oct. 16. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. with a league championship on the line.