Molina shoots Battle Mountain past rival Eagle Valley
GYPSUM, Colorado ” A tug of war between arch rivals took on added meaning Tuesday in Gypsum. Not only would the winner hold bragging rights for the next month, but it would also own an early edge over the other in the race for the Slope championship.
Just when it looked like the Eagle Valley soccer team pulled Battle Mountain to the edge of defeat, the Huskies fought back. Battle Mountain scored a late goal to send the game into overtime. The Huskies quickly tacked on the winner at the start of the extra time to beat the Devils 2-1.
“I don’t even have words for it,” Huskies junior Jair Molina, who scored both of Battle Mountain’s goals, said. “It’s the biggest competition in our league. It’s a good win.”
Molina might have been at a loss for words, but his performance Tuesday also left Eagle Valley speechless. The Devils appeared to be in control of the game with just minutes remaining. Cesar Castillo drilled a free kick through the hands of Battle Mountain goalie Roberto “Junior” Herrera in the 74th minute to give the Devils a 1-0 advantage.
Battle Mountain didn’t quit and neither did Herrera. Only a minute later, the junior keeper faced another test, this time from Eagle Valley’s Gonzalo Gomez. Instead of allowing a second goal that would have virtually ended the game, Herrera made a diving save. The play proved to be huge.
“(Castillo’s) goal was a well-struck ball, but it was a goal-keeper error,” Battle Mountain coach David Cope said. “Then that same kid has to be big. He has to stand up. He has to say, ‘The world is looking at me right now. I’m going to stand up and make the next save.’ The save against Gomez gave us a platform to win the game.”
A minute after Herrera’s game-saving play, the Huskies tied the game. Roman Bonilla lofted a perfect pass to Molina behind the Devils’ defense. The goal wasn’t a gimme, though. Molina lifted the ball over charging Eagle Valley goalkeeper Trevor Grayson into the top right corner of the net to knot the game in the 77th minute.
“I don’t really know, I just hit it,” Molina said. “There was nothing on my mind.”
It took Molina only a minute to strike again in overtime. Playing with the wind at their backs, the Huskies quickly moved the ball into Eagle Valley territory with a long pass to Molina. Using a nifty move, Molina shot the ball past Grayson with his left foot to give Battle Mountain a 2-1 lead and the victory.
“We had control and we were winning,” Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller said. “For a long time, we had better possession, we played pretty well. We got one in and they snuck one in later on.”
Making Molina’s heroics even more impressive is that it was his first game of the season. After sitting out the first three games of the year, Molina said he was determined to come out strong. He certainly did that, scoring two goals to give his team a win over its rivals to the west.
“Jair is a quality player,” Cope said. “Every year, he grows up more as a person. Every year, he understands better his role within our team. He is a junior now. He’s a leader. The kids look up to him.”
Battle Mountain puts the clamps on Castillo
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the key to beating Eagle Valley is to shut down Cesar Castillo. Yes, Castillo scored on Tuesday, but the Huskies made him work for every touch. Marco Ordono marked Castillo for much of the game, but it took the Huskies’ entire defensive unit to stop the Devils’ star player.
Castillo came into the game with 13 goals in four games this season.
“We talked about as group not to overemphasize him,” Cope said. “We know there are other good players out there. Gomez is a good player. Marco Escobar is a good player. There are a lot of kids, David Shea. We wanted to try to deny as much the service of balls into Cesar, rather than just wait for him to get it and try to play nine defenders on one guy.”
Besides Ordono following Castillo around like a shadow, Cope also credited Hugo Parra, Kalen Burnett and Connor Tedstrom for their strong effort on defense.
Rivalry alive and well
It became evident in the second half that this game meant a lot to both sides. After an incident-free first half where both sides played well, things got tense after the break.
There were two red cards and two yellow cards dealt out by the referees in the second half. Both red cards were whistled on Eagle Valley players, giving Battle Mountain an advantage in the closing minutes and overtime.
“(The loss) is good for us,” Rittmiller said. “It’s good to get a sting like this to bring out our character. It showed me where our weak places are on the team.
“We weren’t playing our game. When we showed up to play Golden, we were playing a game. Today, I don’t know what the deal was. We were definitely not at our potential.”
Eagle Valley (4-1, 0-1) is back in action on Saturday at Moffat County. The Huskies (4-0, 3-0) don’t have much time to rest, they play at Montrose on Thursday.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.