Vail Valley preps: Devils curb Bulldogs, 8-2, for first league win
GYPSUM – That’s more like it.
Eagle Valley’s soccer team hit Palisade with everything but a writ of habeas corpus, curbing the Bulldogs, 8-2, Thursday.
Alexis Fernandez scored his first career hat trick for the Devils, scoring all three of his goals in the second half and helping keep Eagle Valley in the hunt for a playoff spot, a pursuit which got all the more intriguing with a stunning out-of-town result Thursday – Moffat County 5, Steamboat Springs 0. (That is not a typo, people. That really happened.)
“It feels good to help the team win and for everyone to play well,” Fernandez said after Thursday’s game. “I’m proud to be playing with the Devils.”
Thursday’s looked and felt more like the Devils teams that advanced to the state’s elite eight in each of the last two years.
And while coach Jason Rittmiller was pleased with the win, he pointed out that one in a row does not constitute a trend.
“It’s better. We’ve been improving every game,” he said.
The defense tightened down, the offense opened up and the improvement was apparent.
“We still have some kinks to work out, but, if we keep improving at this rate, we can win state,” Rittmiller said.
Eagle Valley had to come from behind for its first league win after Palisade scored twice early in the first half.
Life is easier, the Devils quickly learned, if your dog is obedient.
After giving up those two early goals, keeper Julio Garcia and his defense slammed the goal shut and yanked the Bulldogs strikers away like they were on a choke collar.
Kevin Escobar put Eagle Valley on the board about 10 minutes into the game.
Otto Jordan drilled a penalty kick that bounced off the Palisade goalie, then rushed the net to stuff in the rebound. Martin Vasquez fired home another penalty kick minutes later and the Devils were rolling.
Nestor Escobar didn’t score but made sure everyone else did, passing out several assists.
“He moved the ball exceptionally well,” Ritmiller said.
For the next 15 minutes in the second half, the featured act in Hot Stuff Stadium was The Alexis Fernandez Show.
He charged the net when Nestor Escobar fired one of his five shots on goal, and punched the rebound into the bottom corner.
Kevin Escobar nailed a centering pass and Fernandez drilled it around the befuddled Palisade goalie.
His third goal was a loner when he drilled a shot so hard it bounced off the Palisade goalie and into the net.
Javier Gallegos added the final Eagle Valley goal with a header from in front of the net with 10 minutes left.
“We have 11 more games to play and we’re progressively getting better,” Ritmiller said.
Eagle Valley is at Moffat County Saturday.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.