Battle Mountain soccer routs Littleton, history
Huskies blank Lions, 4-0
EDWARDS — Call it the Great Exorcism.
Powered by yellow socks, and a whole lot of Dani Barajas, No. 1-ranked Battle Mountain started the 4A state playoffs with a 4-0 thrashing of Littleton on Saturday morning in Edwards. The Huskies will host Montrose on Tuesday. (The Indians beat Loveland, 2-1, on Saturday.)
Perhaps more importantly, Battle Mountain erased the ghosts who had been following them since last fall’s first-round 5-0 elimination at the hands of Kennedy,
“Losing to Kennedy affected us,” senior Karsen Williams said. “It made us stronger to do better next year. It was talked about all season.”
Barajas had the hat trick and Leo Soto added the coup de grace with a brilliant free kick late, and, given the context of how last season ended, Saturday’s result produced a muted celebration. The Huskies feel that the grand celebration should come later this month.
In the meantime, they’re about smashing through goals — literally. Leading up to Saturday’s game, Battle Mountain players wrote down their goals on planks of wood and then chopped the boards with their hands. (This is soccer, after all.)
That included coach David Cope, whose board read, “2019 5,” as in five playoff games in 2019, not to mention a shout out to his favorite college soccer player at Southern Methodist University.
Playing “The Karate Kid” was a fun team-bonding experience, but also a good way to burn off the anxiety in the buildup to a much-anticipated playoff game.
“I think the playoffs bring that, and it’s OK to be feeling anxious. You just to embrace that,” said coach Cope, whom, we suppose is Mister Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” hypothetical. “Once you have that first tackle, that first pass, that first shot, you’ll be into the flow completely. It’s natural. Plus with the (snowstorm delay postponing games from Wednesday to Saturday), and Littleton had the same thing, it’s almost been 10 days since we last played. There’s going to be a little tension.”
Dani goes off
Nothing relieves a little tension like Barajas. If you haven’t noticed yet, the kid is really good at soccer.
Yes, he upped his season total to 22 goals, but he’s driven by the desire to return to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the site of the state championship games.
“Freshman year, I remember making the finals and I want to make it again,” said now-senior Barajas. “And we want to win it.”
Barajas started things off in the 22nd minute with a ridiculous shot to the near-side post. It was a low-skipper toward the left corner and Lions keeper Logan McLoughlin had no chance.
While dominating the possession, the Huskies weren’t doing so on the scoreboard. As the minutes ticked away during the second half, it became nerve-wracking as just one counterattack would level the match and send, at least, the Huskies faithful into “Here we go again” syndrome.
“We just have to be patient,” Barajas said.
In fairness, the Huskies know the situation well and have found the extra goal or goals throughout the season in forging a 15-0-1 record.
Deliverance came in the 54th minute as Trevino Twiss and Barajas took down the Littleton defense. Twiss broke ankles on his run and had Barajas on his right. Out the ball went and Barajas is a stone-cold killer on finishing.
To make it a hat trick, Barajas cracked a shot from well outside the box in the 61st — speaking of finishing — to make it 3-0. Soto iced it with a free-kick strike, whose spin rate would have had baseball analysts drooling.
Battle Mountain had a new touch to its kit on Saturday. Cope’s better half, Kathleen, liked the pink socks the team wore for breast-cancer awareness last month. In particular, she liked how the Huskies could see each other’s feet in contrast to their home black outfits.
So Garden Creations, Kathleen’s landscaping business, got the Huskies gold socks for their playoff run and hosiery is 1-0.
“Now we’re always listening to someone from Virginia,” David Cope joked about the Cavaliers college basketball team that went from first-round upset victim in 2018 to national champion in 2019.
In fairness, even before last year’s upset, coach Cope has always dreaded the first round more than most. As he did on Saturday, when his squads advance through the opener, he always says, “tidy” with a smile.
“I think in the long run, it’s more relief than jubilation,” Cope said. “Another thing with this group is that there’s a quiet sense of purpose. They’re interesting in that way. They are very business-like. I hope they’re having fun and enjoying it because the bar is set so high. We’re really proud of them.”