After a scare, Huskies advance
EDWARDS – In racking up a 15-0 regular-season record, Battle Mountain soccer had never trailed in a game.
In Round 1 of the 4A state playoffs Thursday, the No. 6 Huskies fell behind Greeley Central, 1-0, during the first minute of the game.
Battle Mountain didn’t get on the board until the 49th minute, but got cranking for three second-half goals and a 3-1 win over the visiting Wildcats. The Huskies host No. 11 Pueblo Centennial, 1-0 winners over Longmont Thursday, on Saturday at 4 p.m.
“If feels awesome,” said senior Diego Rodriguez, who had Battle Mountain’s first equalizer of the year. “I don’t think there’s words to describe the feeling to come from behind.”
“That was the test,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “We’ve talked about it this week. That was the advantage of this draw. At some point, we would be forced to play from behind. We didn’t know when that was going to happen.”
Likely not in the very first minute of the playoffs.
While acknowledging that the Huskies could trail again, Cope joked, “We don’t plan on allowing another goal in the first minute.”
The Huskies had outscored their opponents 83-8 this fall, so it was quite the surprise that Greeley Central’s Christian McBee struck on a free kick just after kickoff.
“It was very exciting,” Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. “I was just hoping we could carry that momentum and score a few more. That’s soccer.”
While the Greeley Central was smelling upset, the Huskies were battling nerves.
“That was the first time we looked visibly out of sorts,” Cope said. “We were miscuing on restarts and unable to keep the ball. Guys that usually win 1-on-1 duels were losing them. That’s natural. Coming into the playoffs, when you’re the higher seed, and, all of a sudden, when you’re behind, there’s a real feeling of, ‘Is this going to end here?'”
Battle Mountain pressed the attack, possessed the ball, but couldn’t crack Wildcats goalie Antonio Chairez-Salazar.
At halftime, the Huskies hashed out that shots from the outside or floating crosses weren’t doing the trick. They had to get to end line and cut to the net.
As well as Chairez-Salazar, a junior and three-year starter for the Wildcats, played, the first goal he allowed was unfortunate. Roberto Diaz feathered a pass to Rodriguez in front of the goal mouth.
Rodriguez shot and thought he didn’t score.
“I was like, ‘Why didn’t I score?’ I saw Roberto celebrating and I knew it was a goal,” Rodriguez said. “He was great goalie.”
The shot went right through Chairez-Salazar’s legs, and Battle Mountain was on the board.
“A goal is a goal,” said senior David Suarez, who will also be running at the state cross-country meet on Saturday. “We started getting excited. In our heads, it was, ‘We’ve got this game. That’s one. We can score more.'”
And they did.
Diaz got his second assist in the 68th minute, feeding Alex Trujillo. Four minutes later, it was Rodriguez to Suarez, and the Huskies were advancing to Saturday’s second round.
“This is the first time we qualified for state in a few years,” Miller said. “They’ve come a long way. I’m proud of them. (Battle Mountain)’s undefeated for a reason. They proved it today.”
Just for kicks
Want snow? Schedule a Battle Mountain soccer playoff game. Thursday marked the fourth year in a row that it’s snowed for the first round of the soccer playoffs here. In 2009, the Huskies lost in a whiteout to Evergreen. In 2010 and 2011, Battle Mountain beat Green Mountain and Lewis-Palmer, respectively, after a day’s delay because of snow. … There were no upsets in the first round, but there were a lot of tight games. No. 31 Summit fell to No. 2 Broomfield, 2-1. Not that anyone in Battle Mountain’s camp would be watching, but No. 3 Evergreen got by No. 30 Coronado, 1-0. In the region, Montrose, No. 13, did plow No. 20, Pueblo West, 5-0. Battle Mountain’s next opponent Pueblo Centennial played Pueblo West twice, winning, 2-1 and 5-1.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.