EDWARDS — The Battle Mountain Huskies’ state soccer title defense started the way their title run ended.
Senior Ryan Wood scored his first high school goal and senior Roberto Diaz scored the winner as Battle Mountain took down Durango, 2-1. Battle Mountain hosts Niwot on Tuesday in the second round.
The last two Huskies playoff games last year went into overtime, so why should this year be any different?
After 80 minutes and a 1-1 tie, the Huskies did what they’ve done so often during this magical two-year run — they found a way to win.
An overtime winner is called “golden goal,” and Diaz was this week’s golden boy. It’s also called “sudden victory” instead of “sudden death,” which is one of those politically correct terms that depends entirely on your perspective.
Diaz’ winner hit the back of the net at the 6:47 mark of overtime. His left-footed bullet darted along the ground and into the bottom left corner. But watching the play develop was like watching a thriller novel plot unfold.
Diaz gathered the ball at the top of the box and threaded a pass to Uriel Lopez on the right side. Lopez calmly waited to traffic to clear and popped a pass into the spot he knew Diaz would soon occupy as he broke through the Durango defense.
Diaz’ pass and Lopez’ composure got Durango goalie Patrick Leach and the rest of the Demon defense leaning in that direction. With the left side wide open, Lopez found Diaz all alone. Diaz drilled a left footer inside the post for the winner.
Wood’s first high school goal evened the game at 1-1.
At the 24:42 mark of the second half, a free kick from junior Brandon Osorio found its way to the front of the goal, where the 6-foot-3 Wood ascended from the scrum to get a head on it and punch it into the top corner.
“I don’t push forward very often, but we needed a goal so I decided to go to the front and use my height,” Wood said.
Wood was fighting Durango’s biggest player for the inside position when Osorio’s crossing pass floated in. Wood gave his opponent one last nudge and soared for the ball. He grazed it with the left side of his head just enough to pop it into the top right corner.
“Big players make big plays in big games,” Battle Mountain coach David Cope said after the win.
Durango drilled the game’s first goal at the 8:07 mark in the first half, when David Schwantes picked up a seeing-eye pass along the right side of the penalty box and lofted a floater into the top right corner, above the outstretched arms of diving Battle Mountain goalie Donnie Leavitt.
Battle Mountain improves to 14-2 on the season.
An Underrated Team
Durango’s Demons came into the match 9-5-1 on the season, and had swapped wins and losses with most of the same Western Slope teams Battle Mountain locked horns with during the season.
Despite playing in the same neighborhood for decades, Wednesday’s playoff opener was the first time the two teams had met.
Battle Mountain was ranked eighth and seeded eighth for the tournament. Durango was ranked 19th and seeded 25th among 4A playoff teams, but Cope was having none of it.
“Durango and Steamboat were the two most underrated teams in the tournament,’ Cope said.
For proof of the Western Slope’s strength, Cope pointed to No. 2 Broomfield needing overtime to dispatch No. 31 Widefield,
Durango’s curious playoff ranking could be because the name Durango, roughly translated, could mean “So far away from everyone else that no one has seen them play.”
Six hours is a long way to drive to get your heart broken.
Kevan Aubel set up Battle Mountain’s first scoring opportunity at 23 minutes into the first half, when he laced an entry pass from the right wing. Durango goalie Patrick Leach parried the ball instead of handling it cleanly, and Alexis Robles was in his face to make a play on the loose ball. It bounced just wide.
Durango’s Zeb Soignier put the first shot on goal of the half at the 10 minute mark when his shot from the left side of the box sailed high.
The game was so clean that the first penalty wasn’t blown until 22 minutes into the first half.
Durango shut down Battle Mountain’s outside game, pinching the Huskies into the middle. Cope decided at halftime that if that’s what Durango was giving, that’s what he’d take.
He moved Lopez into the middle to open the second half and just three minutes into the second half Lopez’ header deep in the box sailed just above the bar.
Six minutes later Durango’s Tony Williams had a chance to put the Demons back in the lead, but his shot on his breakaway dribbled wide left.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.