Battle Mountain soccer falls to Atlas Prep in OT thriller
Huskies drop a tough match to another worthy nonleague foe
EDWARDS — With his team facing a 2-0 hole against visiting Atlas Prep on Saturday, Battle Mountain soccer coach Dave Cope couldn’t help but think back to the lesson he taught Friday on Thomas Paine.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” said Cope, a longtime social studies teacher at the high school. “I thought our response was great.”
That response: a frantic second-half rally that resulted in two huge Huskies goals to knot the match at 2-2 and force overtime on a gorgeous fall day for soccer. In the extra period, both teams had a chance to walk away a winner, but it was Atlas Prep that banged the golden goal home.
Aron Flores, who had given Huskies defenders fits all day, caught up to crossing pass on the right side of the net and zipped in the winning score.
Flores and the visiting Gryphons celebrated like crazy, while Huskies players collapsed to the turf in shock, ending what had been an excellent match between two evenly matched, well-coached teams.
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Atlas Prep improved to 6-1 overall, while Battle Mountain dropped to 5-3 overall.
The 3A Gryphons’ lone loss this season is to 4A Cheyenne Mountain.
Battle Mountain’s three losses — all of them outside the conference — have come against some of the state’s best: Mullen, Durango and Atlas Prep, which will likely be in the mix for the 3A state title this fall.
“This was such a good test,” Cope said. “We stuck together. Either team could have won that game in overtime and it turned out it was them. Congratulations to them, and that’s why we scheduled them. We knew they were going to be a really good team and I’m looking forward to playing them again next year.”
Atlas Prep coach Teo Jackson said he’d met Cope at a coaching clinic a while back, and found they had similar philosophies on scheduling quality nonleague matches to build winners. The Gryphons, who made it all the way to the 3A state semifinals two years ago, have six 4A schools on their schedule this year.
“We know that every play matters in games like these, where it’s close margins,” Jackson said. “As we saw, the game turned real fast. It’s 2-0 — and all of the sudden it’s 2-2 before we blink.”
OK, maybe not that fast, but the Huskies flipped a switch quickly after Flores put the Gryphons up 2-0 just two minutes into the second half.
In the 46th minute of the match, Battle Mountain’s Sam Koontz made a run down the right side — and, without much of an angle on the goal, he blasted a shot right at the Gryphons’ keeper. The shot bounced off the keeper’s hands and fell neatly into the corner of the net to cut the lead to one.
“I was just trying to put it on goal. Stuff happens when you put it there,” Koontz said. “There’s power in accuracy.”
Less than three minutes later, Battle Mountain tied it up when Yahir Eguis corralled a ball in the box off an awkward bounce and put it on net before the Gryphons keeper could react.
Knotted at 2-2, both teams tried to break a second-half clinch where they matched each other for shots on goal and even yellow cards.
Battle Mountain goalie Cruz Ramirez came up big by gobbling up a shot by Luis Vega on a breakaway. Both Vega and Flores had scoring opportunities by catching up to well-placed diagonal through balls, although a few of those chances drew whistles for offside.
“That’s what we’re working on,” Jackson said. “Control the ball, keep it on the floor and play those balls through the defense, and [Flores and Vega] run onto them and they’re good.”
After the game, Koontz said the loss — which snapped a five-game winning streak — will only serve as motivation as the Huskies get back to work Monday.
“It’s always tough coming back from down 0-2. We were playing so good to get back to 2-2, and it just sucks to lose in overtime,” he said. “But from a loss like this, we actually learn more than you might think. We’re going to come back with the fire we have from this loss.”
The Huskies travel Thursday to league rival Steamboat Springs, then return Saturday for another stiff nonleague test against Denver East.