EDWARDS — Please mark your calendars. Round 2 is Oct. 17 in Gypsum.
Battle Mountain soccer staved off upset-minded Eagle Valley, 1-0, Thursday night in Edwards. And if Round 2 was anything like Thursday’s game, get there early. (In fact, one should probably pitch a tent because the football game is the following night.)
“I thought it was a little choppy in the first half and then it got into a pretty exciting flow in the second half,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “Full credit to Eagle Valley. They really worked hard. They did well.”
This one was all about defense, and both sides were tenacious in their respective ends. Eagle Valley held the potent Huskies off the board in the first half, and that makes the Devils the first to do so this season. Roberto Diaz’s lone goal in the 55th minute was the fewest allowed by a Battle Mountain opponent so far this season.
Devils coach Bratzo Horruitiner brewed up a special combination for the Huskies with Alan Caraveo, Aldo Palacios and Irving Daniel in a three-back set in front of goalie Fabian Venzor. He also had two supporting midfielders in Kevin Garcia and Milles Petterson in on the scheme.
“We tried to block the middle because I know they like to pass back,” Horruitiner said. “They have Roberto and (Brandon) Osorio. Those two are strong players through the middle. They play the flanks very well, but we tried to deny the middle. I then had the two midfielders try to top those (outside) runners.”
And, by and large, it worked. The Huskies were stymied. Eagle Valley did not dive in defensively and did a nice job of cutting off the angles, preventing the Huskies from turning and facing the goal.
One of Cope’s patented patience talks was the subject of intermission.
“That’s something we talked about at halftime,” the coach said. “What we’re doing is working. We haven’t scored, so it’s not showing on the scoreboard, but (we’re) working in terms of creating chances and getting looks. We are dangerous. You just have to have faith and patience and keep playing.”
The much-anticipated goal came when Kevan Aubel served a nifty through ball to Diaz, who generally knows what to do in that situation.
‘What big players do’
“When you need a goal at a crucial time, you need a player to step up and provide it. That’s what big players do,” Cope said. “We’re delighted with that result because Eagle’s showing itself to be competitive against the top half of the league.”
Eagle Valley is 2-4-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the 4A Slope, which at first glance doesn’t look like much. Then consider that the Devils fell to Steamboat Springs in overtime, played to a draw with Summit County and gave one heck of a scare to the Huskies in a one-goal game. The Devils are close.
Even more impressive was that Eagle Valley was without the services of leading scorer David Ortiz, who had to sit because of a soft red card in his previous game, as well as fellow senior Edwin Ledezma.
“I’m very happy with the work,” Horruitiner said. “They run all the time, and they don’t show a sign of being tired and keep digging deep.”
Lost in all of this drama is that Battle Mountain’s defense, a question mark going into the season, is starting to gain some traction. Ryan Wood, Ruark Logan, Eli Stephens and Tony Luevanos in front of keeper Donnie Leavitt have pitched three-straight shutouts after a bit of a shaky start against Steamboat Springs in the second game of the season.
“We just have to stay with it and give it your best,” Luevanos said. “You do it for your family. We’re a family. We have to do it for each other.”
“I love Donnie back there,” Stephens said. “For me, it’s nice to have him back there because he talks to me, directs me. And he’s a great goalie.”
Battle Mountain (6-0) hosts Palisade on Saturday at 1 p.m., while Eagle Valley gets another crack at Steamboat on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Hot Stuff Stadium.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.