Rock Canyon ends Eagle Valley’s season, 3-1
Vail, CO Colorado
LITTLETON, Colorado ” Eagle Valley’s bottomless cup of heart and grit finally found its end.
The Devils gave No. 1-seeded Rock Canyon everything it could handle, before succumbing to the Jaguars’ superior talent in the quarterfinals of the 4A soccer playoffs on Wednesday at Shea Stadium in Littleton. Rock Canyon scored two second-half goals to get past Eagle Valley, 3-1.
The loss ends the Devils’ season with a record of 14-3-1. The Jaguars (15-0-3) move on to the 4A semifinals where they will meet Lewis-Palmer, 2-1 winners against Cheyenne Mountain in another game Wednesday.
“Our guys did great,” Eagle Valley coach Jason Rittmiller said. “They played a great game. There were little mistakes here and there, but (Rock Canyon) did the same thing. They have a good team. We have a good team. They just put two more in than we did.”
The two teams were evenly-matched for much of the first 40 minutes, but Rock Canyon’s star, Alex Tarnoczi, took over after the break. The senior came into the game as the Jaguars’ leading scorer with 29 goals during the regular season. He showed why in the second half.
In the 53rd minute, Tarnoczi grabbed possession of the ball just beyond the 18. He made a quick juke to the right and fired a shot to the lower-left corner of the net, giving the Jaguars a 2-1 advantage.
Only 12 minutes later, Tarnoczi essentially put the finishing touches on the Devils’ season with another goal. This time, it was the work of Matt Borner who helped Tarnoczi. Borner made a perfect cross-pass from the left side to Tarnoczi in front of the net. All Tarnoczi did was tap it in.
“He is the kind of kid, if you get the ball on his foot, he can do a lot of special things,” Rock Canyon coach Sean Henning said. “I think we tried to get it to him a little too much today, but in the end, it worked out.”
Even after falling behind, Eagle Valley continued to fight. Marco Escobar barely missed a chance to knot the score when his shot went right in the 57th minute. Later, Steve White nearly cut into the deficit, but his header also missed just right.
Castillo does it again
Both teams took turns making runs in the first half. Rock Canyon missed a number of opportunities ” most coming off the foot of Tarnoczi ” to take an early lead. The Devils’ Cesar Castillo, David Shea and Escobar put pressure of the Jaguars’ defense, put the trio was always one pass away from a quality scoring chance.
The scoring drought finally ended in the 38th minute. Rock Canyon’s Alexander Davis lofted a beautiful cross to a waiting Nick Croley. The senior hit a header past the Devils’ Trevor Grayson for a 1-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for Eagle Valley to respond. In fact, it was less than a minute. Shea found Castillo behind the Rock Canyon defense on a corner kick. Instead of trying to trap the ball, Castillo pulled off a miraculous bicycle kick to tie the score at one.
“It was a perfect pass by David,” Rittmiller said. “He must have saw Cesar waiting for it. I told Cesar, the long shot against Mullen was the sickest thing I’ve ever seen. I was wrong. It was unbelievable. That’s the kind of stuff you see in the pros if you’re lucky.”
Castillo’s unbelievable goal sent the game into halftime all even, but Rock Canyon was determined to come out and take control of the game after the break.
“That first half, (Eagle Valley) did a great job,” Henning said. “I mean, it was outstanding. The fact that it was 1-1 at half, it kind of pissed (our) guys off a little bit. I think it really did awaken them.”
Clearly, the extra motivation worked as Tarnoczi’s two goals pushed the Jaguars into the semifinal round for the first time in school history.
The loss to Rock Canyon ended Eagle Valley’s season, but the Devils will have fond memories of their 2008 campaign for years to come.
Eagle Valley won its first Slope title, and advanced into the quarterfinals for the first time in 4A. The Devils also scored a pair of impressive playoff wins over Evergreen and Mullen at home before traveling to Littleton to meet Rock Canyon.
“We accomplished a lot,” Rittmiller said. “It was the same challenge we faced last year. We had a lot of individual talent, but we had to make them work together. Especially the last few games we’ve played, they’ve really done it. We became a stronger team by relying on each other.”
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 748-2935 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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