Edge out win against tough Alamosa team
by Than Acuff
It was two years in the making and in the end it was all worth it, as the Crested Butte Titans soccer team edged out a hotly contested 2-1 win in their first-ever home edition of Friday Night Lights on Friday, September 21.
Last season transportation and facilities manager for the Gunnison School District Paul Morgan had an idea to have the Titans play a game at the Gunnison High School football field under the lights. Scheduling conflicts prohibited the game from happening last season but this year, thanks to the effort of Morgan, the Gunnison High School staff and Crested Butte athletics director Jarrod Hinton, it all came together and the Alamosa Mean Moose agreed to the showdown under the lights.
The Titans knew it would be a tough game as they battled Alamosa earlier this season, eventually sealing a 1-0 win in the final minute of overtime.
The Mean Moose brought their pace and skill to the game Friday night and while the Titans carried a majority of the possession in the first 20 minutes, the Mean Moose threatened with quick counterattacks and skilled strikers.
The Titans got some breathing room midway through the first half as Tate Young clipped a long pass into the Mean Moose 18-yard box and Tommy Linehan punched it through to put the Titans up 1-0.
Midfielders Young, Linehan and Kye Matlock spent the rest of the half trying to create more opportunities on offense while the back line of Owen Berv, Finn Smith and Zane Reda held the potent Mean Moose attack in check to keep Crested Butte’s one-goal lead going into halftime
“I was surprised,” says captain and goalkeeper Slater Weil. “They had gotten a lot better since the last time we played them but so had we. I thought we looked composed, weren’t trying to force things too much and having the ball at our feet for a majority of that half gave us a lot of confidence.”
Alamosa ramped up the pressure and the pace in the second half as they continued to look to their strikers to create opportunities. The Mean Moose started pressing hard as the half wore on and Weil came up with a handful of saves but the constant work of Alamosa eventually led to a penalty kick and they converted on it to tie the game 1-1.
“They came out firing,” says Weil. “But, it was awesome to see that the goal didn’t diminish anyone. We kept the pressure high and kept going.”
As the game wore on, bedlam started to take over and the game flirted with chaos but the Titans’ composure made the difference.
While the game started to disintegrate into a version of smash-mouth soccer, Crested Butte started finding some seams into the Alamosa half. Alamosa’s well-disciplined defense turned away a number of Titan attacks but the Titans found success on a late-game set piece from 25 yards out.
As Alamosa retreated to pack their defense in front of the goal, Gaby Marmolejo played a quick pass to Carlos Franco outside the penalty area. Franco slipped past one Alamosa defender and then fired a low shot through traffic and past the Mean Moose keeper for a 2-1 Titans’ lead with five minutes left in regulation. Crested Butte then clamped down and while Alamosa continued to threaten, the Titans held on for the 2-1 win.
“I was impressed that we didn’t let anything get to us and everyone kept their cool when things got heated at the end,” says Weil.
Crested Butte regrouped Saturday at 5 a.m. for a trip to the southwest part of the state to face the Pagosa Springs Pirates. The Pirates are notoriously strong but are struggling this year and the Titans cruised to a 9-0 win. Marmolejo led all players with three goals and two assists, Jovany Aguirre netted two goals, Linehan scored two with Dagan Schwartz getting the assist on one and Franco and Young each added one more goal.
The Titans have a week off from games but return to action on Tuesday, October 2 when they host the Ridgway Demons. They follow that up with another home game on Thursday, October 4 against non-league opponent Basalt and then close the regular season against Telluride, in Telluride, on Saturday, October 20.
“Our last three games are going to be our toughest for sure,” says Weil. “We tied Ridgway and we’re hoping that we will bring the energy when we play them here. Basalt is a good 3A team and will be tough and Telluride in Telluride is always just absolute insanity. It’s going to come down to composure.”