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Titans fall short to Weld Central in opener at state tournament

Season ends in eastern plains
There’s no doubt the Crested Butte Titans gave the Weld Central Rebels a scare in the opening round of the state 3A soccer tournament.
After taking second place in the Southwest League with a record of 8-3, the Titans entered the first round of the state tournament ranked 13th in the state.

The Rebels, on the other hand, dominated their league on the eastern plains of Colorado, posting a 14-1 record to enter the post season as the number four seed. Their wins included numerous shutouts of five goals or more, with two of their players scoring a total of 51 goals. It was sizing up to be a regular David versus Goliath match-up.
Despite the numbers, the Titans carried themselves into the playoff game with an air of confidence. They were fresh off a 3-2 overtime win over the Montrose JV on Friday, October 19 and had a full healthy squad set for the state showdown on Tuesday, October 23.
The opening minutes of the game were absolutely frantic, with the Titans pressing hard into the Rebel zone and the Rebels countering with an explosive attack.
The Titans’ defense, as usual, held tight to push the speedy Rebel strikers wide with junior Jeremy Clayton and freshman Sky Egelhoff clamped down on the Weld Central scoring phenoms.
Junior Robbie Holleran sent the message that Crested Butte was for serious minutes into the game, breaking loose in the midfield and firing a shot from 25 yards out. The Rebel keeper leapt high and tipped the ball, sending it rebounding straight down off the crossbar, and pulled it in to hold the game scoreless.
Five minutes later a Weld Central striker broke through the Titans defense and headed for goal, forcing senior sweeper Mo Gillie to take him down inside the penalty area.
Weld Central was awarded a penalty kick and converted it to take a 1-0 lead, but the Titans responded one minute later, determined to not give up without a fight.
Again Holleran broke loose at the midfield but this time the keeper had no chance on his shot, as Holleran blasted it by him from 30 yards out to tie the game 1-1.
Crested Butte continued to dominate the midfield, battling through every 50-50 ball and winning touches in the air, but the Weld Central counter-attack continued to threaten.
Their speed paid off again midway through the first half as two players connected inside the Titans’ penalty area on a breakaway to take a 2-1 lead.
Still, the Titans remained focused and maintained pressure on the Rebel defense with junior midfielders Jack Linehan and John Wright finding slots through the Weld Central defensive zone.
Seniors John Tharp and Max Lamb stayed a step ahead of the back four of the Rebel defense to offer targets for the Titans up top, but the final touches through were often cut off by Weld Central’s speed on the outside.
The Titans’ hustle made up the difference in speed, though, forcing the Rebels to make numerous bad touches, causing havoc in Weld Central’s defensive third.
Junior striker Becca Lefanowicz stripped a Rebel defender of the ball to float a shot from outside the 18-yard box destined for the upper corner, only to be denied by a brilliant save from the Weld Central net minder.
Crested Butte out shot the Rebels 10-4 in the first half but Weld Central managed to take a tenuous 2-1 lead into halftime, noticeably rattled by the mystery squad from the mountains.
The second half played out much like the first, with Clayton shutting down Weld Central’s leading scorer and the Titans’ midfield controlling the center.
Senior goalkeeper Daniel Hargrove was barely tested in-net. When he was, he came up with a handful of saves, including two one-on-one blocks to hold Weld Central’s lead to one goal.
Senior Alexei Desmarais offered the Titans opportunity on the outside with quick touches and exceptional movement off the ball but his work was abruptly brought to end with 15 minutes left in the game. Desmarais challenged a ball pushed wide and was cut down as he turned to the ball, fracturing his already-tender clavicle.
Sophomore Jenner Currier was called into action to fill the spot and continued the solid play up the sideline, helping to create two more scoring opportunities for the Titans, but Crested Butte’s shots flew wide of the goal mouth.
Weld Central took advantage of one last breakaway to score an insurance goal with seven minutes left, dashing the Titans’ hopes of upsetting the Rebels and denying Crested Butte’s shot at the still-forbidden fruit of the state quarterfinals.

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