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Vail Valley preps: Title heads back to Battle Mountain

Luke Graham
Vail, CO Colorado
Battle Mountain's Jack Sunderland, 16, reaches for a high five after scoring his team's first goal in Thursday night's soccer game at Steamboat Springs.
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STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Simple math meant the Battle Mountain soccer team simply needed a tie Thursday in Steamboat to wrap up a 4A Slope title.

But when the two premier soccer programs on the Western Slope meet up, competitive spirits stir, the lights go on and the soccer game of year simply unfolds.

Battle Mountain (10-3 overall, 8-1 in the 4A Western Slope) got a goal from Heivan Garcia in the last minute of overtime Thursday against Steamboat Springs, propelling the Huskies to a 3-2 win and a league title.



“It meant a lot because the seniors have been here playing for a league title,” said Garcia, who also notched a goal early in the game. “It was fantastic. We didn’t want to go with a tie. We wanted the win.”

Battle Mountain coach David Cope admitted going into the game that needing just a tie gave Battle Mountain a huge advantage. With a tie, the Huskies still would have the edge over Steamboat by virtue of a 1-0-1 record against the Sailors..



Even with that in play, right from the start, there was no sense the Huskies wanted anything less than a win.

After struggling with Battle Mountain’s speed the first time the two teams met, Steamboat played its hand early, lining up in 4-5-1 formation with only one forward. The Sailors made it a midfield game and often had 11 players behind the ball.

It seemed to work in the intermediate as the Huskies struggled to generate many early opportunities.



In the 18th minute, though, Battle Mountain struck on a corner kick. Leopoldo Rodriguez served up a perfect ball that found Jack Sunderland. Sunderland knocked it over Joey Height, who fell down, for a 1-0 lead.

Steamboat got the equalizer in the 23rd minute when Enrique Lopez won a 50-50 ball just past midfield. The junior beat a pair of defenders and slipped a shot shortside past Huskies keeper Nick Vossler to tie the game at one.

Battle Mountain responded in the 28th. Coming up the right side, Bryan Morales maintained possession and sent a low ball across the box uninterrupted. Several Steamboat defenders had the chance to clear, but the ball came to Garcia’s foot, who put it away for a 2-1 lead.

“That was just a mistake,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. “It happens.”

The Sailors again bounced back in the 47th minute. After a quick transition, Lopez corralled the ball just past midfield. With the defense keying on him, Lopez found a streaking Lance Ostrom up the left side. Ostrom had a perfect touch and shot to tie the game at two.

The two teams traded opportunities until overtime.

That’s when Battle Mountain decided to sit back and play for the tie.

“We tried to win the game in the second half, but once we got to overtime the idea was to lock it down,” Cope said. “We said if we steal it or with a counter attack over the top, fine. That’s the way it played out.”

Garcia won a 1-on-1 ball in the air against Steamboatπs Michael Wong.

Unimpeded, Garcia hit low and towards the corner for the game-winner.

“It means a lot,” Cope said. ≥Especially against the defending champions on their field in overtime. Especially against a team and a coach we have a lot of respect for. That’s everything high school sports should be.”

Battle Mountain next plays at 6 p.m. Thursday at Eagle Valley. Steamboat next plays at noon Saturday at Colorado Academy.

To reach Luke Graham, call970- 871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@steamboatpilot.com


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