Huskies top D’Evelyn, headed to Final Four
EDWARDS — The 2016 Battle Mountain soccer team is off to the state semifinal for only the second time in school history. The way these Huskies did it is another matter all together.
No. 9 Battle Mountain trailed No. 17 D’Evelyn, 2-0, with 23 minutes left in their quarterfinal before the Huskies rallied all the way back for a 3-2 heart-stopping win over the Jaguars on Saturday in Edwards.
“I think the main thing was, in order to set us up for the semifinal, we wanted to put ourselves in a hole,” Huskies coach David Cope said. “So we did that twice.”
Next stop: EchoPark Stadium in Parker and a semifinal date with Pueblo West on Wednesday.
D’Evelyn’s Owen Fulton put the Huskies in a hole in the first minute of the game on a floater. Battle Mountain goalie Alan Villegas, who was outstanding for the rest of the game, was out of position for that shot, and the Huskies could have been forgiven for feeling a little deja vu from last year’s 3-1 quarterfinal loss, an incomprehensible mishmash of self-inflicted wounds, to Standley Lake.
But former Huskies goalie Jack Skidmore, now a freshman at the University of Michigan, and current co-captain Miles Joersz were smiling by the end of Saturday evening.
The Huskies stabilized the game and then had the traditional Cope halftime talk of keep doing what you’re doing. And, naturally, the second half started with the Jaguars’ Nico Denton increasing D’Evelyn’s lead to 2-0.
So could the Huskies come back?
“Of course, we can,” senior defender Taylor Staughton said. “We just did.”
There was some motivation for the Huskies (16-2), having seen the Vail Mountain School fall in the 3A quarterfinals earlier on Saturday.
“We saw the VMS players go down 2-0 today and we knew how awful it was for them after they went off the field. We didn’t want that to happen,” Staughton said. “We love those guys. We told each other at least one team has got to win the state championship.”
D’Evelyn’s Mario Gori got called for a yellow for taking down Huskies junior Juan Macias in the box. He converted the penalty to halve the lead.
“I just knew that if I scored, we were back in it, and the momentum would be with us,” Macias said.
That momentum seemed to stall, but the Huskies got a corner kick with five minutes left in regulation. Cody Bahan sent it in from the right side and Macias, who has been absolutely clutch all season, evened it, sending the Huskies’ faithful into a state of delirium.
“When I scored, I looked up and I couldn’t believe it,” Macias said. “I’ve got a lot of seniors on this team I’ve played with my whole life. They’re like brothers to me and this one’s for them.”
And, perhaps, in a bit of cosmic justice, for last year’s quarterfinals or Villegas’ miscue earlier in this game. Jaguars’ goalie Dylan Wickershiem misplayed an innocent looking shot with 1:42 left in the game.
The ball ended up at Creek Kamby’s feet.
“Obviously, just don’t whiff,” he joked. “We wouldn’t have even been in that spot if Juan hadn’t scored two great goals. It was just my part. Play your part on your team.”
On to Parker
Kamby didn’t whiff, and 102 seconds later, the Huskies and their fans celebrated on the field singing. The Huskies continued to sing in the locker room. (They’re better soccer players than vocalists, but they earned it.)
“In every playoff run that goes deep, you have a moment where you have to stare defeat in the face and say, ‘Here we are. Where do we go from here,’” Cope said. “I thought our players didn’t blink I thought they showed a ton of composure and belief in each other.”
And the trivia of the day is that the Huskies have never come back from a two-goal deficit in the postseason during Cope’s 25-year tenure at the head of the boys soccer team at Battle Mountain.
“We’re proud of our fitness. We’re proud of our tenacity. We never say die,” Cope said. “That’s important for a team to develop. That comes over years.”
As if to emphasize that point, Heivan Garcia, Roberto Diaz and Alex Trujillo, all alumni from the 2012 team that won the 4A state title, addressed the team after Saturday’s game.
The Huskies face Pueblo West on Wednesday at EchoPark Stadium in Parker at 5 p.m. (The address is 11901 Newlin Gulch Blvd, Parker, CO 80134 for navigational devices.) If you don’t recognize the name, it’s the old Sports Authority Stadium, where the 2012 team defeated Broomfield in the semifinals, not to be confused with the Broncos’ home or Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.