Hot and cold over weekend
For the second year in a row the Crested Butte Titans high school soccer team opened their season with a trip to the Classical Academy Titan Cup tournament in Colorado Springs, and for the second year in a row they finished in third place.
The tournament offers the Titans an opportunity to see soccer outside of their league. Furthermore, the coaches got a chance to see if their team is taking to the new formation after three weeks of practice.
For all intents and purposes, things appear to be moving along as the Titans are beginning to take hold of the new strategy, winning two of three games over the weekend.
The tournament opened for the Titans with a taste of Friday night lights as the Titans faced Dolores Huerta on Friday night.
Dolores Huerta is a complete unknown to the Crested Butte squad but after the first five minutes of play, the outcome of the game became fairly obvious. Energized by the lights and the first game of the season the Titans came out at mach speed, scoring two goals in the opening five minutes.
Senior Jenner Currier took a corner kick from Henry Linehan and poked it through in a mad scramble, and 30 seconds later Currier slipped a pass to junior Sam Evans for a quick 2-0 Crested Butte lead.
Dolores Huerta held off the Titan assault for the next 25 minutes until sophomore Ben Reaman pushed a pass through the defense to sophomore Collin Dill, and Dill finished for a 3-0 lead.
Freshman Graham Kovall closed the half, taking the ball at midfield and slicing through five Dolores players to go to goal and score.
The Titans opened the second half with the same intensity, as sophomore Luis Aguirre scored on a pass from Currier in the opening minutes to put the Titans on top 5-0.
Freshman Jesse Reeves and sophomore Cole Byron closed the game with a goal apiece as the Titans rolled to a 7-0 win.
“We were on it,” says Currier. “The lights, the atmosphere got everyone going. We were just ready.”
The question remained, though—would the Titans have anything left in the tank for their next game, Saturday at noon. While the squad appeared ready for the game as they warmed up, their effort fell far short of their opponent, Lutheran Parker.
Lutheran Parker came into the game looking to disrupt the Titans’ passing attack and did so with heavy pressure on the ball at all times. While the Titans scrambled to assemble a cohesive attack, Lutheran Parker kept it simple, winning loose balls and pushing the ball up the middle to connect for three goals in the first half.
The Titans recovered to dominate possession the final 10 minutes of the first half, resulting in a goal by Evans on a penalty kick, but the damage was done.
The Titans looked to rally off the late first half goal in the second half, but Lutheran Parker held on for the 3-1 win, sending the Titans to the consolation finals against Heritage Christian.
“We weren’t hustling for sure,” says Currier. “We weren’t playing as a team.”
While observers had Heritage Christian pegged as a stronger team than Lutheran Parker, a different Titans team came out for the final game, determined to close the weekend with a win.
“We pretty much knew we had to win,” says Currier. “We really wanted to place in the tournament.”
The mental shift throughout the team had everyone on their toes battling for loose balls and returning to their strategy. A potentially back-breaking strike came from Heritage Christian 15 minutes into the game though when a midfielder broke free and buried his shot in the lower corner for a 1-0 lead.
But Crested Butte remained focused with the defense shutting down the middle and the outsides, leaving the work at the feet of the midfielders and strikers.
Aguirre had a breakout performance at the top striker spot, netting his second goal of the weekend to tie the game 1-1 in the 26th minute. Three minutes later Aguirre struck again off a feed from Kovall to give the Titans a 2-1 lead going into halftime.
Heritage Christian searched in vain for the equalizer as the Titans back four of senior Ricky Sandoval, juniors Tanner Gordon and Nicholas Mikeska and sophomore Nolan Blunck held tight, while senior Connor McGuire and Linehan shut down any possible distribution from the Heritage midfielders.
Junior net minder Ben Frame came up with three key saves before Aguirre netted his third goal of the game, his fourth of the weekend, in the 77th minute to ice the 3-1 Titans win.
“We went as hard as we could,” says Currier. “We proved to ourselves that our team could do well this season.”
The Titans play their first home game on Thursday, September 10 at Rainbow Field against Salida at 4 p.m.