Titans bounce back, shut out Bulldogs
After a 1-0 loss to the Delta Panthers on the road this past Saturday, the Coal Ridge Titans’ boys soccer team needed a big bounce back performance Tuesday to get back on track in 3A Western Slope League play. Fortunately for the boys in white and blue, the Moffat County Bulldogs proved to be just the right remedy as the Titans rolled to a 5-0 win over the visiting Bulldogs at “The Pasture.”
Junior striker Josh Fulk found the back of the net three times in the win, while junior Ezequiel Vasquez added one goal on a penalty kick and senior Luis Galaviz chipped in with one goal of his own on a Moffat County miscommunication leading to the 5-0 win.
“I thought the boys played well tonight,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Michael Mikalakis said. “We started to get back into the style of play we are accustomed to, which is something that we got away from in our loss to Delta. It was nice to see the boys showcasing their speed and possession throughout the entire game as well.”
Much as the score line showed, the Titans simply dominated from start to finish as they played an attacking style of soccer through the midfield that emphasized ball possession and attempted through balls to get behind the Moffat back line. Early on Fulk slipped behind the Bulldogs’ back line but couldn’t finish due to a great save by Moffat goal keeper Daniel Moore. Marcus Amaya got into the mix as well with a great run up the middle of the Moffat defense before trying to twist and turn to beat Moore, chipping it just wide to remain scoreless.
Then, building on the momentum created through possession and strong runs up the middle of the field, Fulk was able to capitalize on his touch in the box thanks to a great feed from Vasquez to make it 1-0 Titans midway through the first half.
Applying pressure following the opening goal of the game looking to run away, the Titans came back in force as junior Jordi Serna received a great cross into the box from Galaviz but couldn’t slot it home, missing just wide to the right of the far post. A few minutes later the Titans got into the box again as Fulk made a run down the right side before finding Vasquez, who tried to slide it through the box. Fortunately for the Titans, Moffat defender Juan Loya got a hand on it, setting up Vasquez’s penalty kick to make it 2-0 Titans late in the first half.
At times the Titans appeared sloppy with possessions near midfield, but in the second half Coal Ridge simply took over and ran away with the game as Fulk buried one from about 20 yards out that beat the diving Moore to make it 3-0 Titans. A few minutes later Galaviz forced a miscommunication between Moore and Micajah Prescott, allowing him to punch home his shot into a wide open net to stretch the lead to 4-0.
That’s when Fulk stepped up one last time to cap off the big win with the hat trick goal, weaving his way into the box before leaping over a diving Moore to tap home the ball, securing his 18th goal of the season for the Titans.
“He is a wonderful striker,” Mikalakis said. “I think what makes him stand out is that his speed and ball-handling skills get him into the right positions to score. I also think it’s important to recognize that his teammates in the midfield (Galaviz, Amaya and Vasquez) are very skilled with reading the field and making passes that are putting him into the best possible positions to score.”
While the offense will get a ton of credit for Coal Ridge’s win over the Bulldogs, it would be unjust to overlook the terrific display of defense put on by Jonathan Espinoza, Leonardo Serrano and Fernando Tena, who repeatedly turned away the Moffat attack, allowing Adrian Hernandez to rest easy in goal throughout the big win.
“We have a very strong defense this year,” Mikalakis said. “That’s one of the biggest reasons for our success so far this season. The core group of defenders really work well together, and it helps that Jon is such a powerful leader on and off the field. Having teammates like Fernando, Leonardo, Landon [Stickler] and Ezequiel [Vasquez] can help alleviate a lot of the burden that usually falls on the shoulders of the sweeper position, which is what Jonathan plays.”
With the win, Coal Ridge moves to 9-1 (3-1 3A WSL) on the season. The Titans will host Vail Mountain on Saturday in a big 3A WSL matchup with first place in the league standings on the line.