Devils lose playoff match in shootout against Northridge |

Devils lose playoff match in shootout against Northridge

Heartbreaker means Eagle Valley won’t get another shot at Battle Mountain

Eagle Valley High School boys soccer lost to Northridge on Thursday in a shootout in the first round of the 4A playoffs.
Jeanelle Sandoval/Vail Daily

The Devils fought like hell at John Ramunno Field on Thursday evening in the first round of the 4A State playoffs against the Northridge Grizzlies, but the visiting team walked away as the victors.

Eagle Valley High School entered the playoffs after a breakthrough regular season, earning two wins against Steamboat Springs, two wins on the road at Summit and Fort Lupton, and two wins at home against Frontier Academy and valley rival Vail Mountain School. With an overall 6-5 record, and 4-4 in the league, the Devils fired into the first round of the playoffs third in the league.

Their opponent drove to from Greeley to Gypsum with their own claims to strength, at second place in the league with a 7-1-1 league record and 10-2-3 overall.

As the match began, Northridge came out firing first, with their first two strikes stopped by Devils goalie Jorge Bardales. Aggressive defense from #21 and junior Pabel Arenales helped fend off the Grizzlies’ attack, while swift footwork from Eagle Valley junior Heath Nager wore down the opposing defense.

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Both teams fought back and forth in the first half, though neither found the back of the net in the first forty minutes of play. Northridge displayed a slight upper hand, if only measured by the amount of scoring attempts. Everything else was evenly matched at the half.

The second half started off in a similar fashion, with more scoring attempts coming from each side. Then, after over fifty minutes of play, Nager finally put one in the back of the net.

With the Devils in control, they started to look a little more confident. The boys were running faster and the passing was cleaner, but the Grizzlies continued on their hunt. The home crowd held its breath as Justus Alcala from Northridge blasted a shot that was momentarily bobbled by Bardales before securing the ball on the ground. Though that opportunity was missed, Northridge was persistent in returning a goal, and they eventually did with a rebound goal from Juan Beltran.

Intensity ramped up as the tied teams neared the end of the second half, but neither team could seal the deal. At end of exhibition the game remained at 1-1.

In overtime, both teams came out ready for a dogfight. With nail-biting scoring attempts coming from both sides, the Devils were showing greater control of the ball and more opportunities. The battle raged on for 13 minutes, only to be temporarily stopped in play by a linesman getting knocked over by competing players. As the injured linesman was walked off the field, the Devils gave the net a few more tries before the buzzer rang, signaling the game was going into double overtime.

When both teams came out onto the field for the second overtime, things were leaning in the Devils’ favor. Attempt after attempt, the Devils maintained control of the ball, leaving Northridge very little time to respond. Sophomore Jeff Lopez had a clean attempt that looked sure to be the end of the game, but Northridge’s goalie held the wall. Double overtime ended in a tie, with a shootout to go.

First, it was Juan Beltran to score one for Northridge. Then, Eagle Valleys’ Roman Turner took a shot that was blocked by Northridge’s Owen Henderson. Leonel Aguilar then scored another for Northridge. Luke Rumley of Eagle Valley responded with a goal, and Devil Pabel Arenales’ shot bounced off the post. Then, it was Northridge’s Usai Abdullah who stepped up to sink one into the net, sealing the win for the Grizzlies.

After a hard-fought season and an emotional shootout loss, Devils coach Andy Wheeler held his head high, with great pride in a young team that fought like hell.

“These are my boys, man. A lot of people don’t know this, but I never played a whole lot of soccer before this. The reason I do this is for these boys and what they mean to this program. We got a lot of kids who are a huge part of this high school and this valley, and a lot of people don’t know about them.”

“These kids all have something to be proud of tonight, as do the fans who came to support us.”

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