Late game heroics set up thrilling homecoming win
by Than Acuff
The Crested Butte Titans soccer team won back-to-back league games over the weekend, with both games decided by a single goal.
It all started Friday, September 15 as the Titans hosted the Telluride Miners for their annual homecoming game. Each and every year the fans can count on a battle between the two teams as the game is always decided by one goal, or finishes in a tie, and brings out the best in both teams in intensity and heart.
Friday was no exception as the Titans came back from behind twice during the match to eventually edge out a 3-2 win.
Nerves always play a big part of Crested Butte’s play to open the homecoming game but this year’s Titans team appeared unfazed by the hype as they opened the game calm, cool and collected.
“I think the team was well prepared, not too nervous but excited,” says senior captain Dylan Eaton.
Both teams traded off attacks on net but the Titans defense anchored by net minder Slater Weil and central defenders Woody Martineau and Tate Young closed off any clean looks at the Titans’ net.
Meanwhile, heavy use of the flanks set up the Titans for a couple of chances on the Miners goal but finishing touches flew wide or were swallowed up by the Miners goalkeeper.
Telluride broke the stalemate 30 minutes into the game to go up 1-0, but the Titans remained resolved in their mission and continued to press high on defense, with Carlos Franco, Oliver Houseman and Dylan Eaton controlling the midfield.
As time was running out in the first half, a cross slipped through to Chris Myers on the weak side. Myers collided with the Telluride goalie and the ball squirted loose and Walker Carroll jumped on the loose ball to fire the shot into the open net, tying the game 1-1 moments before the whistle for the end of the half sounded.
“I think our shots were rushed but once we settled down, I thought we played an excellent game of soccer and played smart,” says Eaton.
Telluride retook the lead 15 minutes into the second half but Crested Butte remained composed despite the deficit.
“We’ve never really stressed the 0-0 mentality but I heard someone say it and I started saying it and the team was like, it’s okay, we can still win this,” explains Eaton.
The team suffered a huge blow when Young fell saving a goal-scoring chance, separating his shoulder and forcing him to leave the game. Finn Smith and Owen Berv came off the bench as the defense shuffled to adjust and the Titans picked up where they left off.
A concerted effort down the flanks offered up a number of scoring chances. Ultimately, Carroll broke free down the sideline and crossed the ball for Josias Navarette to head it past the Miners keeper, tying the game 2-2 with 10 minutes left to play.
“When Josias scored, that took a lot of the pressure off our shoulders,” says Eaton.
Crested Butte continued to press and the effort paid off again seven minutes later as the Miners keeper mishandled a shot from Carroll and Eaton crashed on the loose ball to poke it through for the eventual game-winner.
“I didn’t sense any panic from the team the entire time,” says Eaton. “We knew we had to keep pushing the flanks and that’s what got us our two last goals.”
The Titans returned to the field the next day to face the Bayfield Wolverines. Bayfield’s program has made a complete 180 the past two years, going from a perennial cellar-dweller to a force within the league.
This year is no different, as their once young and inexperienced team has turned into a roster of seasoned and strong upperclassmen with speed and size.
“We were at first a little intimidated because they were so tall and we were coming off a tough game the day before,” says Eaton. “But they had a tough game as well so we figured they were probably tired too so we stressed in the huddle to just keep the momentum going. We were tired but we were still going to give it our all.”
Both Eaton and Houseman made a concerted effort to break up the size and speed of Bayfield’s midfield with smart and physical play.
Meanwhile, the Titans defense took better care of the ball, finding passes up field rather than smashing it to no one in particular.
The entire team effort paid off as possession led to opportunity on offense and Myers made the most of it when he chased down a ball inside the 18-yard box and chipped it over the Bayfield keeper for a 1-0 Titans lead.
The Titans added to their lead in the second half as Michael Hensley pressed high from his spot on the outside defense to fire a shot from 35 yards out. The Bayfield keeper stretched to push the shot wide but the ball hit off the post and off the back of a Bayfield player and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Bayfield shifted into overdrive to try to mount a late-game comeback scoring with three minutes left but the Titans held strong to seal the 2-1 win for their third win in a row.
The team remains at home on Friday, September 22 when they host Alamosa at 4 p.m. at Rainbow. The team is looking for revenge after falling to Alamosa 3-2 two weeks ago. They will then hit the road on Saturday to face Cortez.
“I expect the team to bring it all,” says Eaton. “We should definitely be fired up against Alamosa and we’re going to stress not giving up. Cortez is a long bus ride so we need to get the energy going once we get there.”