Huskies soccer smothers rival Devils at home
Battle Mountain snaps Eagle Valley’s four-game win streak with 2-0 win
EDWARDS — Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley players swapped jerseys before Thursday night’s rivalry soccer match in a moving display of sportsmanship. After the opening whistle blew, however, neither team refused to give in an inch over the next 80 minutes of play.
In the end, it was the Huskies who walked off their home turf with the victory over their archrivals, a 2-0 shutout to savor for homecoming weekend. But nothing came easy on this night for either side.
In what felt like heavyweight fight between two top-10 teams that have been the class of the 4A Western Slope this season, both the Huskies and Devils found themselves in a clinch for most of the night. Shots were limited and contested. Play in the midfield was fierce, with each loose ball a furious scramble.
Devils players knocked Huskies players off the ball and the Huskies players gave it right back.
Where the Huskies exerted their will over their rivals was controlling possession. They played keep-away for most of the night while constricting the opposition from having many scoring chances. They waited patiently for their opportunity to strike.
“That’s what we’re all about. If we can dominate possession, eventually that will tell on the scoreboard,” Huskies coach Dave Cope said. “Not be too concerned with trying to score every goal right away. You look at Eagle Valley’s record, and they hadn’t allowed a goal in four games. So the word from our team was patience. It was, Hey, if we can have the ball, we can keep moving them side to side, something will open up.”
In the 28th minute, that proved to be the case when Battle Mountain’s Sam Koontz took a pass from senior midfielder Ivan Solis and hit a blast from about 35 yards out that crossed up Eagle Valley keeper Jorge Bardales from right to left and found the back of the net.
After Koontz’s goal, the final result remained in doubt, however, all the way up until the 70th minute. That’s when the Huskies’ other leading scorer, senior Bryant Ramirez, hit a shot into the bottom right corner of the net from about 25 yards out to provide some insurance.
Up until that point, Bardales had played the game of his life, snagging shots out of midair and cutting down angles to force shots wide.
“Cookie, that’s my boy,” said Devils coach Andrew Wheeler of Bardales. “We’re spoiled in the fact that we had a four-year keeper before him and he played lights-out last year on JV and now we’ve got him for another three years.”
Bryant Ramirez’s final goal was set up off a perfect touch pass from Leo Soto.
“It was very important to seal the game,” a smiling Bryant Ramirez said afterward. “It was a fantastic feeling.”
It was also quite the feeling to shut out the Devils at home after allowing two goals in the two teams’ meeting back in early September.
“They’re stout defensively, but the two guys who scored, Sam and Bryant, they’re our two leading scorers and those guys are clutch,” Cope said. “I was happy for our keeper to get a shutout. Cruz Ramirez has paid his dues and he’s worked hard. He deserved that. To get a shutout on homecoming week against your archrivals, on your home field, in one of the last games you’ll ever play here, that’s a fantastic feeling.”
“It just feels amazing to come out on top,” Cruz Ramirez said. “Big shutout to the seniors, we’ve all been there for each other and we’ve been looking forward to this day since we were freshman.”
The Devils didn’t just lose to their rivals. They also lost the heart and soul of their team, Denilson Sandoval, early in the first half.
“When you lose a player like that, it changes things,” Wheeler said. “That’s a guy that doesn’t step off the field for you. That’s a guy who everything runs through. It’s challenging.”
The Devils coach added that he stressed to his team that while the loss is a tough one, it’s just one game in a season that’s been special for the Devils so far — and that they’ve got more soccer to play.
“I would play this team every game if I could,” Wheeler said. “That’s how you measure yourself, is against the best. Right now, we win as a team and we lose as a team and collectively, today, we didn’t play our system. We didn’t play Devils soccer.”
With the win, the Huskies improved to 6-4-1 overall and 5-1 in the 4A Slope while the Devils fell to 6-3, 3-2.