Strong Eagle Valley second half overwhelms Rifle |

Strong Eagle Valley second half overwhelms Rifle

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colorado ” Saturday is simply not a good day for the Rifle boys soccer program.

Entering Saturday’s meeting with visiting Eagle Valley, the Bears hadn’t won a weekend game in three tries.

Make that four.

Victimized by four Cesar Castillo goals ” the senior phenom’s 32nd through 35th scores of the season ” Rifle found itself on the wrong end of a 6-2 decision.

In their four Saturday losses, the Bears have been outscored 24-2.

Rifle coach Ryan Mahler didn’t care to pinpoint the driving force behind his team’s weekend woes. He just wants the Bears to play better.

“We’ve got to get them to focus,” the first-year coach said. “We have to play 80 minutes hard. That’s the biggest thing.”

Outside of a Marco Escobar-assisted Castillo goal less than two minutes into the game, Rifle held its own with the quick-strike Devils through intermission.

But it didn’t take Eagle Valley long to bulk up that 1-0 halftime edge in the second half when, in the 50th minute, David Shea used his left foot to bury a goal high into net from well back of the 18-yard box.

Shea made it 3-0 seven minutes later, taking a forward pass from Escobar in for an easy goal. Escobar finished with three assists on the drizzly, overcast afternoon in Rifle.

The Bears’ Anthony Bracamontes eventually put Rifle on the board with a 68th-minute goal, taking a long free kick in open space and striking home a sharp roller.

Castillo, though, could not be stopped down the stretch. Exploiting a defender’s whiff on a clear attempt, the forward pounced on a loose ball and cruised in for a 72nd-minute goal.

Nearly six minutes later, Castillo took a through ball from Escobar in for a goal and then, in stoppage time, he bulleted a long-distance free kick on net.

In between all that, Rifle managed its second goal of the game when Julio Aguirre had the last Bear touch on a ball that ricocheted in off an Eagle Valley defender with 2:15 showing on the clock.

Second-half explosions have been the norm of late for the Devils.

Thursday at Glenwood, Eagle Valley exploded for five second-half goals after going scoreless in the first half to beat the Demons 5-1.

On Saturday, the Devils converted five of their six goals in the second half.

“I honestly don’t know what it is,” Escobar said. “We don’t start as hard. We need to play hard all the time.”

Choppy waters await Eagle Valley, who have a gauntlet of a late-season schedule on deck.

The Devils, in first place in the 4A Western Slope League with an 8-1-0 record, will close out the season with games at Glenwood Springs (Thursday), at home against Steamboat Springs (Oct. 14) and at Battle Mountain (Oct. 16).

Saturday served as a nice tune-up for that brutal stretch of games.

“It was an important game for us,” said Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller, whose team moved to 11-1-0 overall. “It wasn’t as much about winning the game as it was playing better before we play Glenwood, Steamboat and Battle Mountain.”

While a challenging way to end the regular season, Rittmiller will take it.

“It gets us in shape for the postseason,” he stressed.

While Eagle Valley kept pace in the 4A WSL race, Rifle dropped to 4-7-0 overall and to 4-5-0 in league.

Next up for the Bears is an Oct. 11 trip to Steamboat Springs.

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