Reliving the joy of Evergreen
What. A. Game.
For anyone who is still standing, a look back at Battle Mountain’s 2-1 win over Evergreen in the state quarterfinals and a look ahead. (Or all the stuff I couldn’t write on deadline at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs.):
• The beautiful irony of Thursday shootout ending was that it was the only way Evergreen could win, and it was clear from last 20 minutes of the second half or so onward that the Cougars were playing for kicks. Battle Mountain dominated. Evergreen’s Ethan Jackson (No. 19) was the only guy up in the Cougars’ formation.
They were hoping for some form of counter attack. As much as Battle Mountain’s back line has the freedom to go forward – and they really do – Jackson wasn’t getting through some combination of Gunnar Wilson, Erick Briones, Brandon Osorio and Roberto Diaz.
• Happy birthday, Christian Espinoza. Yep, the goalie’s birthday is today. Many happy returns. Those saves go down in Battle Mountain legend.
And here we must give credit to assistant coach Kyle Mercer. Yes, he is the bad cop to head coach David Cope’s good cop. He is also the chief consigliere to Cope. And he’s the man in charge of the goalies. Mercer has produced a string of goalies for this program. If you just go to the beginning of this run of seven of nine slope titles, that’s Josh Ruark, D.J. Van Curan, Clint Hervert and now Espinoza.
It’s also worth noting how all involved were worried after Hervert graduated – Clint, the goalie, was in 2010; Cody, the center back, graduated in 2011. The Huskies had used Clint as a security blanket. He had been a starting keeper for three years. This was the question mark in Battle Mountain’s camp. Question answered.
“In shootout, if they miss one or your keeper saves one, we’ve got a chance,” Cope said. “If our keeper saves three, it doesn’t matter what anyone else does.”
• Most likely, the fact that Battle Mountain went 3-for-3 in converting their penalty kicks will be forgotten. Don’t forget. Diaz, Briones and Wilson were as cool as the other side of the pillow.
This is not a coincidence. I kid you not that Cope has always prepared for PKs. It is the last thing the Huskies do before a playoff game. The fellas, as Cope would say, did PKs as the last thing in practice Wednesday. It was Cope’s traditional style of competition mixed in with fun. Make your kick and go to the left side of the net and advance to the next round. Miss? Go to the right side and feel shame. (OK, you just got razzed big time by your teammates.)
Battle Mountain’s shooters were automatic because they’ve done this to the point of routine.
• Battle Mountain did trail this game. It’s only the second time this year. Another thing that will likely be forgotten was Diaz’s equalizer. Most importantly, it came quickly. More memorably, that shot was a rocket. Wow.
• The Huskies kept their cool. This was a situation, in other years, where Battle Mountain could get frustrated and then allow that counter-attack goal. Instead, the Huskies just kept coming. I hate PKs to end a game – because they can be just a roll of the dice – but the result, while also a happy ending, really did reflect the play.
• Kudos to a deep bench. Lots of guys were in and out making contributions, and the bench was positive through this ordeal. Everyone was a part of this.
• Who was the home team? Pat yourselves all on the back, people. The Battle Mountain faithful did itself proud. If the Huskies weren’t wearing black jerseys, one really might have thought this was a home game. Battle Mountain’s fans were more numerous and louder Thursday. The players and the coaches noticed.
• Cope wanted this one badly. He yelled during the game, people. That doesn’t happen often. Seriously, the last time I saw him blow his lid was 2008 in an Eagle Valley game back in Eagle-Vail. Yes, the players make a coach look good, but Cope his built this program. He’s earned this run.
• Bedlam was the only way to describe the end. The team charged Espinoza and the Huskies faithful was right behind. Utter chaos in a great way. The scene in Idaho Springs was equally jubilant. The fans got there before the players, so every player got a hero’s welcome at Beau Jo’s. (On a related note, man, can teenagers wolf down pizza quickly.)
This was nice to see. The Huskies have been all-business so far, which is good. There was a bit of a whoop after beating Summit County to clinch the Slope. The guys posed in front of the scoreboard after making it a 15-0 regular season. The team was generally ho-hum after beating Pueblo Centennial to make the quarterfinals. (This was only the fourth team in school history to do so.)
This is meant to be fun and fun it was, finally.
• Next stop: Sports Authority Stadium in Parker for Broomfield on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Broomfield in the semifinals. (Please note, this is a different place than Dick’s Sporting Goods Field near Denver International.) This will be the second semi of the evening – Ponderosa and Mullen play in the first.
Broomfield is 14-1-3 and the No. 2 seed. The Eagles’ only loss is to Adams City, which ended up being the No. 1 seed in 5A. Results of note include a 2-1 win over Greeley Central as well as playoff win by the same count over Summit County.
• We are officially in uncharted territory for Battle Mountain soccer. Part of me thinks that challenges lie ahead. Part of me thinks maybe that Evergreen was the mountain the Huskies had to climb. The truth is probably somewhere in between both. There is no doubt that having finally toppled Evergreen, the Huskies can play with anyone in 4A.
See you all on Wednesday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.