Gore Rangers golden against Coal Ridge
EAST VAIL — The ironic thing is that the first goal Kevin Garcia scored for the Vail Mountain School against Coal Ridge was a thing of beauty. It was the bread and butter of textbook soccer.
The Garcia’s second goal, on the other hand, was an ugly, mad scramble in the box, and the sophomore’s shot just leaked over the line.
But the latter was the prettiest thing the Gore Rangers have seen in a long time because it came in overtime of a 2-1 victory over No. 3-ranked Coal Ridge on Saturday at Bandoni Alumni Field.
“My dad always told me, ‘It’s not the big goals you need. It’s the little-bitty ones. Those are the ones that win games,’” a very happy VMS coach Pete Petrovski said. “That proved to be very true today. Those are my favorite ones, the ones that kind of trickle in.”
Clay Kirwood made the run that started it. The ball went into the box. VMS’ Dylan Cunningham pressured the Coal Ridge defender — and this is the moment that was in dispute after the game. The Titans defender went down and the ball squeaked over to Garcia.
The VMS sophomore was on the left post, stuck his foot out and sent it toward the Coal Ridge goal.
“It definitely slowed down,” Garcia said of the sensation of the world slowing to a crawl. “I saw a defender running toward it. I didn’t know if he was going to be able to clear it. I saw it barely roll in, barely miss the post. It was awesome.”
The VMS players on the field went nuts. The Gore Rangers bench joyously streamed onto the field. And VMS goalie John Linn was watching it all from his net.
“It was an eternity. I saw Kevin in the air screaming. The bench erupted,” Linn said. “First overtime win in the three years I’ve been here.”
The Coal Ridge bench howled, insisting that Cunningham knocked down his defender in the box. That protest came to no avail, though there will be much Zapruder-tape like study in the days to come.
While there’s been a lot of joking in this space about Bandoni Alumni Field, this was one of the bigger goals for VMS scored on this pitch. The last time VMS boys soccer had a golden goal was Tony Ryerson in Aspen in 2008. The last time for an overtime winner at The Bob was 2007 and Ryerson against Aspen. (The Skiers really didn’t like the Ryerson family.)
“Very, very exciting,” Petrovski said. “We gauge ourselves against those guys. They’re a really, really good team, one of the best teams we’ve seen. They’re one of the best teams in the state. We have a lot of respect for them. This is what prepares you for playoff games, playing teams like Coal Ridge.”
Defense stands tall
While the memory of this game will be Garcia’s second tally, this was a scoreless game through 41 minutes.
Linn stood tall against a very fast Coal Ridge team with the help of his defenders Tommy Miller, Bridger Gile, Robby Grubber and Kade Manula. The defense stopped numerous Titans’ runs with good, physical defense and clean tackles.
“I just look to see where the opposing team is,” Linn said. “If my defender doesn’t see it, I try to tell them where his guy is. If we keep a tight line and pressure, we win balls. My defense is awesome. We couldn’t do it without them. They win us games. I’ve got several shutouts on the season, but I can attribute it all to the defense.”
VMS started the second half with possession. Kirwood fed Garcia at the top of the box and the latter crushed the finish, just a beautiful goal.
Coal Ridge answered with an equally fine tally. The Titans’ Enrique Bucio feathered a pass across the box to Juan Gonzalez and Linn had no chance.
When regulation was over, Petrovski gathered the Gore Rangers and delivered his message.
“I just told them we’ve worked really, really hard to get to this point,” the coach said. “They have given everything they’ve got. I asked them if they thought that any other teams out there worked harder than they do. They said no. I said, ‘Go show them.’”
While this is big step for VMS (7-2-1 overall and 4-0), there’s a lot of soccer to go, starting with a date at Aspen on Tuesday. Coal Ridge (8-2, 2-1) hosts Rifle also on Tuesday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.