Entering brutal stretch of schedule
by Than Acuff
It was two completely different games but with the same result as the Crested Butte Titans soccer team rattled off two more wins over the past week.
The Titans expected a tough match when they hosted the Pagosa Springs Pirates at Rainbow field on Tuesday, August 28. Nearly every game for the past 15 years against the Pirates has finished with one goal making the difference in either team’s favor, and the Pirates are notorious for battling for every ball, every minute of every game.
This year the Pirates are struggling at the start of their season though with players injured and missing, leaving them just 10 on their roster when they showed up for the game on Tuesday.
Crested Butte jumped on the Pirates early and often in the first half, opening the scoring in the third minute of the game as Carlos Franco played a ball to Tommy Linehan on a direct kick and Linehan scored. Two minutes later Gabi Marmolejo took a throw in from Tate Young and drove to the net to score. A minute later the Titans struck again as Franco drilled a low shot from 25 yards out for a 3-0 lead.
Given the situation, Crested Butte eased off the throttle until the 17th minute when Ethan Bacani dropped a pass to Nathan Miller for the Titans’ fourth goal. Hayden Faivre jumped in with a goal, Miller scored his second of the game and Jovany Aguirre and Dagan Schwartz closed it out with a goal each for an 8-0 lead at the half.
“We came out really strong but once we started to see how the game was going, our intensity seemed to disappear,” says senior captain Slater Weil.
Crested Butte then turned to their JV squad to finish out the game and they held their own. The Pirates benefitted from an own goal by the Titans but Crested Butte answered right back as Cedar Fessenden dished the ball off to Thomas Nichols at midfield. Nichols found Darshan Naryana open at the top of the 18-yard box with a quick pass and Naryana pushed his shot past the Pagosa keeper to cap off the 9-1 Crested Butte win.
“It was good to see the JV players get in there and mix it up,” says Weil. “It was kind of disappointing though because everyone was ready to get a real game in and test our skills against a real contender.”
The Titans then reset for their upcoming game against the Alamosa Mean Moose on Saturday, September 1. Alamosa has been gaining ground in the league over the past couple of years and lost a couple of close ones to tough teams recently, so the Titans knew they would be facing their toughest opponent to date.
Crested Butte took immediate control of possession in the first half, working the ball patiently and looking to unlock Alamosa’s packed defense. The Mean Moose proved impenetrable in front of their net and managed a couple of counterattacks, but the back line of Zane Reda, Finn Smith and Owen Berv had Alamosa’s strikers tied up in fits and turning them away.
“We were playing really well but Alamosa just packed the box and we couldn’t finish,” says Weil.
The two teams took the field for the second half mired in a scoreless draw, but Alamosa started to take over the game, outhustling the Titans in the midfield and getting number up field to cause havoc. Smith, Reda and Berv maintained their composure throughout the half and keeper Slater Weil turned away the few shots he saw to keep the game tied 0-0 and forcing overtime.
Crested Butte returned to their possession-based game for the overtime to get a couple of chances but Alamosa’s keeper proved stout in net and the teams were forced to play one last 10 minutes of overtime.
The Titans continued to press but the difference didn’t come until the final 45 seconds of play as a quick throw-in to Franco found him open just outside the penalty area. Franco fired and the keeper tipped the ball off the crossbar but Chris Myers was crashing the net and punched home the rebound for the game-winning goal.
“There were five to 10 minutes in the game when I felt like we were really on our heels but it was awesome, we played 100 minutes and it came down to the 100th minute,” says Weil. “The drive was there the whole game and everyone was ready to take matters into their own hands and produce something as a team.”
The Titans now enter a rough stretch in the season as they have five games over eight days, including a couple of games against non-league powerhouses Salida and Delta and their first showdown with last year’s league winners, Ridgway.
“We definitely need to take care of ourselves,” says Weil. “We got some injuries and we’re going to need everyone for every game. We gotta turn our heads on. When we’re in school, we’re in school. But once we step onto the field for a practice or a game, we have to flip the switch and turn it on.”
The Titans host Delta on Thursday, September 6 at 4 p.m., Cortez on Friday, September 7 at 4 p.m. and Bayfield on Saturday, September 8 at 1 p.m. They hit the road on Tuesday, September 11 to play Ridgway.