“It was so painful”
by Than Acuff
While expectations were high for the Crested Butte Titans soccer team, expectations came crashing down when the Titans fell to the Ridgway Demons in the quarterfinals of the 2A state tournament on Wednesday, November 6 in Gunnison.
It was a disappointing end to what was a strong season for Crested Butte. They won the league and conference titles for the second year in a row, finishing with a record of 10-3-2. Their strength of schedule and record earned them the second seed in the post-season as well as a bye through the first round of the tournament.
But, as the regular season was coming to a close, a few injuries, a lack of games and a winter storm had the Titans unsettled heading into the state tournament.
“It’s a little hard coming off of the October break but we did what we could and were mostly prepared,” says senior captain Owen Berv.
Thanks to the diligent work of RE1J transportation director Paul Morgan, Crested Butte Community School athletics director Jarrod Hinton and Gunnison High School athletics director Dave Uhrig, Western Colorado University and Bryan Wickenhauser with the iBar Ranch, the Titans did manage to get some quality workouts in the gym and outside on a mix of snow, grass and frozen tundra as they prepared for their match against Ridgway. Once game day arrived, the field at the Gunnison High School was set and the team felt confident they could put together a solid performance.
The first five minutes proved that as well, as scrappy play led to unsettled chances and Crested Butte struck first when Carlos Franco slipped through the back line of the Demon defense and pushed the ball past the oncoming keeper for a 1-0 Titans lead.
Ridgway appeared unfettered by the early goal though and looked to bring the pressure to Crested Butte in the midfield. Their efforts stymied the Titans attack but Crested Butte was equally strong on defense as they were able to shut off any quality looks on net by Ridgway.
The Demons tied the game up in the 28th minute when two players got tangled up inside the Titans penalty area, earning Ridgway a penalty kick and they converted.
The goal further inspired Ridgway but Crested Butte remained resolute in their tasks, looking for seams in the tight Demon defense. But they struggled to find that final touch and the two teams entered halftime notched in a 1-1 tie.
“I think we got a little excited after that first goal and let down a little and started forcing things up the middle rather than using the flanks,” says Berv.
The Demons came out in the second half determined to keep their state dreams alive as they started beating Crested Butte to every loose ball and dictating the pace and style of play. The effort paid off for Ridgway as they scored on a corner kick 15 minutes into the second half and then scored a third goal eight minutes later to take a 3-1 lead with 20 minutes left in regulation. Despite Crested Butte’s hopeful attempts to close the gap, the Demons proved too stout to take down and Crested Butte’s season came to a close with the 3-1 loss.
“It was so painful,” says Berv. “Not just losing but losing to a team we could have beat.”
The Titans finished the year 10-4-2 and while they fell short of their hopes and dreams at a repeat, the season was still one to remember.
“I think we still did pretty well and I am satisfied with our final record,” says Berv. “We lost some key seniors last year but the team pulled together and played pretty well, even though it didn’t end how we wanted it to.”
Berv was also part of a senior class that saw the best and the worst of the Titans team, having been a part of a team that recorded its only sub-.500 season three years ago, being a part of a state title team last year and then playing on a team that fell in their first state game of this year’s tournament.
“It was a great run for all of us seniors,” says Berv. “We saw the highs and the lows and everything in between and it was great to see how the team stuck together through it all.”