Red-hot Devils down Rifle, stay in hunt
Vail, CO Colorado
RIFLE ” The Rifle boys soccer team scheduled a bad time to play Eagle Valley.
The Bears faced the Devils in the middle of a 4-0-2 Eagle Valley run.
On Tuesday, Eagle Valley added another win to the streak, defeating Rifle 4-1 and eliminating the Bears from the playoffs.
“We have just made the right changes and got the team put together,” said Eagle Valley head coach Jason Rittmiller of the team’s play since starting Class 4A Western Slope League play at 0-4-0. “The trouble was that I had some very strong individual talent on the team, it was getting those to all work together as a team and we are getting that down.”
Rifle got the ball rolling early, capitalizing on an own goal from Eagle Valley to take an early lead, but Eagle responded with four unanswered goals against Rifle.
“I thought the score was way misleading. We played them much tighter than that,” said Rifle head coach Mark Knighton. “We gave them four looks and they score on all four. What are you going to do?”
It was Cesar Castillo and Eleazar Saucedo who caused the damage to Rifle, each scoring an unassisted goal and then each assisting each other for a goal a piece. The first came on a Saucedo corner kick, which Castillo, who sends balls like magnets to the back of the goal, directed passed Rifle goalie Juan Tuscano.
Rifle defender Kyle Zumbrennen was in charge of marking Castillo all game, and outside the breakdown on the corner kick and a direct kick Castillo scored on in the second half, contained the scoring machine.
“Kyle played great tonight,” Knighton said. “His hip was sore, but he played great.”
The score came 20 minutes into the game to knot the contest at one.
Eight minutes later, Saucedo made the Bears pay for a turnover, taking the ball down the field, faking the Tuscano right and then shooting a fast roller left to put Rifle up 2-1 at halftime.
With a little over 21 minutes left in the match, Saucedo struck again. This time on a give a give and go, where he gave to Castillo and got the ball back for a high shot that snuck in the goal right under the crossbar.
“Eagle Valley is a good team. They are good,” Knighton said. “Their front two are dangerous. (Saucedo and Castillo) are dangerous players, creative, got some skill, but really I feel like we played with them.”
Castillo scored the final goal of the game three minutes later, sending a direct kick into the back of Rifle’s net.
“We knew coming in that if he gets any kind of free kick, inside the 40, it was dangerous and sure enough, it was,” Knighton said of Castillo.
The Bears had some quality scoring chances instigated by Garet Babcock, Evan Muldoon and Pablo and Ricardo Salgado, but just couldn’t put on the finishing touch.
“It was disappointing, just off touch just enough. We played good ball though, that was some of the better ball we played,” Knighton said. “The ideas were there, the creative play was there, the passing was there, everything was good, we just didn’t find the back of the net enough.”
It was the last home game for the Bears (3-7-1 WSL, 4-9-1 overall), who will graduate 10 seniors, including captains Babcock and Kyle Concannon. Rifle will finish its season on Thursday with a game at Palisade.
Eagle Valley (5-4-2 WSL, 5-6-2) will be back on the field today, playing at Glenwood Springs (6-4-1 WSL, 6-7-1 overall). Battle Mountain had wrapped up the WSL title, and the next three teams will also go the playoffs. Glenwood and Steamboat are in and Eagle Valley and Moffat are making a push for the final spot.
After Tuesday’s game, Eagle Valley was already looking ahead to the Demon-Devil showdown. Rittmiller was even thinking about it during the game, trying to make sure his players would be ready.
“That is what we were trying to do, spread it around, subbing in a lot today to keep people fresh for tomorrow,” he said. “Nobody really took a beating today, so we should at full strength tomorrow and ready to put it to them.”