Battle Mountain topples Northfield to claim Colorado 4A soccer title
Northfield was 56-1 in the last three seasons and was going for a three-peat championship after defeating Battle Mountain in the 2022 title game
COLORADO SPRINGS — Danny Sanchez remembers the somber locker room scene at Switchbacks Weidner Field exactly one year ago. Coaches consoled crying players packing up jerseys for the last time after a 3-0 defeat to back-to-back state champion Northfield Nighthawks.
Seeds were planted.
“Of course I did — I’ve been thinking about it all year long,” the junior defender answered when asked if the moment came to mind Saturday morning.
“That was a tough one, but I think collectively as a group, we just came back stronger than ever.”
Those tears of sadness turned to tears of joy Saturday afternoon in the 4A state title game.
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Different score — 2-0, Huskies.
“We wanted it to be them,” said Battle Mountain’s Alexis Dozal.
Them, being the 19-0 Nighthawks, who rode into Saturday’s three-peat attempt with a 56-1-1 since 2021.
“Since the beginning of the season, we knew Northfield was a strong team, but we wanted them — we wanted them to be here with us,” added Leo Martinez.
“From Day 1, we didn’t want to play any other team in the final.”
Martinez got the Huskies on the board in the 20th minute.
The fleet-footed junior intercepted a Northfield clear near midfield. He flashed his sick handles to the silent Northfield student section — which found little to cheer about throughout the first half — then deked his way in close before rearing back for a long-range shot.
“As soon as I saw him open his hips, I was like, ‘Alright, he’s going to do his signature move,'” Martinez said.
“The difference is we’ve been playing for each other since we were little boys — growing up, elementary school, all year long,” Sanchez said. “These Denver teams are good, but they don’t have the unity that we have.”
Glowacki pulled back, undressing a Nighthawk with his shot fake and subsequent juke move. He moved in closer and could have easily fired a high-percentage shot from just outside the 18-yard box, but at the last second, centered the ball on a timing route through traffic to Martinez.
“I saw the space, he saw me — we locked eyes — and as soon as we locked eyes we knew,” Martinez said of Glowacki’s pass.
Glowacki threaded the needle and “Leo the Lion” sewed up the play for a 1-0 lead.
The Huskies held the ball for less time in the first half but created more looks than the favorites. Northfield, which had outscored opponents 84-10 in its previous 19 games, raged back in the second half.
“I think sometimes the intuition is, ‘Hey we got a goal, let’s just defend,'” said head coach Dave Cope, who preached aggressiveness in the halftime huddle. “I said, ‘Hey, let’s not sit on one.'”
But that’s what the Huskies appeared to do for the first 20-plus minutes of the second half.
“We decided to park the bus too early,” Dozal admitted.
Northfield star Quinn Tettero led the charge. In one sequence, a flurry of Northfield touches at point-blank range led to Tettero executing a pretty no-look back-foot dish from inside the box — but the extra pass was too sweet for his teammates to handle and squandered a potential equalizer.
The Nighthawks kept coming, and Battle Mountain’s back four, led by Erik Aguirre, Sanchez and keeper Ezequiel Alvarez, stayed afloat. With 13:19 remaining, a header by Tettero sailed a few inches over the crossbar. A few minutes later, Ren Garfield had a nice look by the left post, but Jakob Methvin stretched his foot to the sky to block it away.
“We had to stick together, no matter the outcome,” Dozal said of the tense second-half stretch.
“Our defensive line did a fantastic job. Zeke did an absolutely great job,” said Cooper Skidmore, praising his goalie, who recorded a well-earned shutout. “They were knocking for a while, but we didn’t open.”
It was Skidmore who, with 8:43 remaining, received a one-timer from Methvin driving along the baseline to give Battle Mountain some security.
“Cope just told me to give it to Jakob and let him go baseline. And he did, and he passed it back and I got lucky enough — and it went in,” Skidmore said of the score, which gave the Huskies a 2-0 lead.
Skidmore was one of the 15 players who returned from last year’s state runner-up team, though he played goalie during the No. 16 seed’s Cinderella run. Earlier last week, Cope took out some of that game’s film for the first time in 365 days.
“I don’t think anybody had watched it because they were so disappointed,” he said.
“I picked out five or six clips to show them, like, ‘We did really well.’ We had to come in with the confidence (today) that, OK we lost the final, but we really didn’t play badly. And we’re a good team.”
When the buzzer sounded, he finally felt comfortable adding an amendment to the latter statement.
“And I’ll go ahead and say it now: we’re a great team,” he smiled. “I haven’t said that all year.”
“Out of words. It’s unbelievable,” Martinez said of being a state champion. “It’s just something you dream of since your freshman year.” Martinez thanked his parents, his coaches and his teammates — especially the pair of seniors, Edwyn Montes and Arturo Aguilar, who graduated off the 2022 team.
“Without them, this team wouldn’t be what it is today.”
Throughout the year, Cope has said his squad can’t measure the campaign’s success solely on a return to Switchbacks Weidner Field. When asked if he considered this ending a success, he laughed and said, “We’ll take it,” before walking away to join his players for a photo.
With the title banner tucked away and ready to transport back to the mountain school which hung its first in 2012, players jovially filed off the field. One of the last to leave, Sanchez high-fived a member of the student section before heading for the tunnel and back into the locker room. Unlike last year, the junior held a behemoth first-place trophy — and wore a smile.
“Someone’s got to defend this,” he said.
“And it has to be us.”