Tough week ahead
by Than Acuff
The Titans faced their third and final non-league opponent of the season, falling 1-0 to the Basalt Longhorns on Thursday, October 6.
With just three spots in the schedule open to fill with non-league match-ups, the Titans looked to find some of the stronger 3A programs in the state to fill the void. While all three matches resulted in defeats, the Titans hope to use the experiences to push their program to the next level.
“Basalt is usually ranked high in the state for 3A soccer,” explains assistant coach Prawit Durgan. “We played Basalt in order to introduce our players to a new style of play and a fast-paced game. The idea is that if we go to the state playoffs, our players wouldn’t be shocked and caught off-guard by the teams that play in this style.”
Expectations were high concerning the Basalt program. While Crested Butte lost to Delta earlier this season 7-2 and Delta narrowly edged out a 2-1 win over Basalt, the Titans expected a tough game from the Longhorns.
“At first it seemed the players had a losing attitude and there wasn’t much confidence before the game,” says Durgan. “I believed that at our best, we could put up a challenge to Basalt and perhaps come up with a win, so I believed that the Titans were ready for the challenge.”
Players’ nerves manifested in a tentative opening 15 minutes of play from Crested Butte as Basalt took control of the pace and possession of the game playing long passes over the top to their speedy strikers. The effort resulted in a Basalt goal 12 minutes into the game and almost a second goal as goalkeeper Josh Pruett came off his line to shut off another one-on-one. The Basalt player was stymied on the initial shot attempt but got hold of the rebound only to have Titan defender Garret Pierson clear the ball off the line and out of harm’s way.
The Titans finally settled down and picked up their play to take control of both the pace and possession the remainder of the half. While Alden Watkins and Tate Young adjusted on defense to close out the long passes, the work of midfielders Patrick Seifert and Oliver Houseman dominated the central part of the field, but as the Titans transitioned into offense, loose passes and tough defense by the Longhorns shut off the Titan attack.
“Despite Basalt scoring in the first half, I thought the first half was the best part of our game,” says Durgan. “The first 10 or 15 minutes our players were slow and hesitant and Basalt capitalized on a through-ball, but after their goal the Titans started playing better. We were moving the ball, finding open players and we were pressing on the top of their 18 for most of the rest of the half.”
Down just 1-0 at halftime, the Titans gained confidence heading into the second half looking to take the game to Basalt. Unfortunately, Basalt’s defense proved well organized and quick to shut off passing lanes, leaving the Titans little opportunities on net. A couple of misplays on set plays further spelled the Titans’ demise as they fell short of finding the finishing touch to lose 1-0.
“I was happy with the result. A win would have been nicer, but the Titans battled,” says Durgan. “Possession the whole game was about even between both teams. That being said, losing 1-0 to a high-ranked team isn’t so bad.”
The Titans loss dropped their overall record to 6-4 but they remain on top of the league standings with a record of 6-1. That top spot is in flux though as Crested Butte now has the biggest challenge of the season ahead of them. They close out the regular season with five league games in seven days, four of which are on the road, starting this Friday and Saturday as they head southwest to play Bayfield and Pagosa Springs.
“At this point in the season every player should know their role on the team,” says Durgan. “We’re done introducing new things to the players. With five league games coming up, we have to focus on team morale and make sure the players execute what is expected of them as a team.”