Battle Mountain’s clean passing leads to 3-1 victory over Northridge in second round of 4A playoffs |

Battle Mountain’s clean passing leads to 3-1 victory over Northridge in second round of 4A playoffs

Soto’s sick handles lead Huskies to the quarterfinals

Battle Mountain celebrates after a goal against Northridge in the second round of playoffs Wednesday in Edwards. Battle Mountain won, 3-1.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

At a school where the assistant principal plays athletic director and sings the national anthem, it would follow that its students would also attempt to wear many hats. The paradox at play then was that the key for Battle Mountain’s success in its second-round playoff matchup against Northridge was for student-athletes to not try and “do it all.”

After players looking to do too much led to an ugly first-round playoff win against Glenwood Springs last week, crisper triangular passing on Wednesday night led to better, more frequent offensive opportunities and, eventually, a convincing 3-1 win over the visiting Grizzlies.

“We just kept it simple, stayed wide and passed well,” senior Leo Soto said.

In the early going, Soto’s pinpoint passing and equitable distribution synthesized most of the Huskies’ early scoring chances. The senior’s instinctive footwork and fancy fakes were the offensive spark plug for Battle Mountain.

“I’m just used to picking up my head and looking at the field, looking at the players and where they are — and when I get the ball, I just send it to where they are,” Soto said about his knack for playmaking.

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Soto’s leadership didn’t go unnoticed.

“I thought it was his best game as a Husky,” head coach Dave Cope said afterward.

Battle Mountain controlled the first half, but Northridge gave the home crowd a few worthy scares. A header off of Grizzlies senior Braeden Freier was bound for paydirt before a nice Cruz Ramirez save. Immediately after, Battle Mountain’s Joseph Fernandez was the benefactor of a perfect pass that narrowly cleared a Northridge defender’s head, but his open left-footed look went wide right. Shortly after, Freier took the wind out of the Battle Mountain faithful again with another hard shot, but Ramirez was there to prevent any damage.

Eventually, Soto’s facilitating and the Huskies’ patient determination finally paid off, and not with a moment to spare. Soto broke down the Grizzlies’ defense and made the first pass to Alexis Dozal, whose centering pass to Yahir Eguis led to a Huskies goal with 16.4 seconds left in the half.

“He (Soto) had the assist on the goal, but I thought he played well in every aspect,” Cope said about his senior forward.

Early in the second half, Fernandez’s hustle off of a long pass was rewarded with a diving header which squeezed into the left corner of the net for a 2-0 lead. With 12:29 to go, Tyler Bahan got in on the action to make it 3-0. A goal by Grizzlies’ Justus Alcala with 49 seconds to go in the match provided little as far as damage control.

“In the first round, there’s a lot of nerves and anxiety. Tonight I thought we settled in and played really well,” Cope said.

The Huskies face No. 3 seed The Classical Academy in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Colorado Springs. Battle Mountain lost to The Classical Academy 1-0 on Oct. 23.

“The reason we put this schedule together was to see if we could compete with these teams,” Cope said as he looked toward the next opponent. “You can’t always control the outcome, but you can control how hard you compete. If our boys go in with that same sort of approach, we’ll be in the game.”

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