The Rifle soccer team had been waiting for the complete game. The game when the strikers, midfielders and defenders play well and together for 80 minutes. Saturday, Rifle was nearly perfect in a dominating, 7-0 win over Steamboat Springs.
"We are finding our identity," Bears coach Tom Taucher said. "They've been slowly putting this together. ... We've had that goal of a shutout."
The Sailors mustered just two legitimate shots on goal, both of which Bears goalie Derek Roberts, a senior, was in position to catch. Rifle, meanwhile, could have scored more if not for several great saves from sophomore goalie Bjorn Lickteig and senior goalie Jordan Gray and several good defensive recoveries and clearing shots.
The Bears got things started one minute into the first half with a perfectly executed corner kick. Senior Kyle McElroy kicked the ball into the box and senior Adam Krick headed the ball past Lickteig.
Rifle added its second goal less than eight minutes later when senior Sean Melody beat everyone down the field on a hard run toward the box. Neither team scored until the 30-minute mark, when junior Stuart Stapleton knocked a penalty kick high and right past Lickteig.
With less than three minutes left in the half, the Sailors' first hopes of a goal came off a corner but no one got off a clean shot before the Bears' defense cleared the ball.
Six minutes into the second half, Rifle picked up where it left off when junior Brett Chesley, amidst a scramble for the ball, took control and knocked one low past Lickteig.
Steamboat's first shot on goal came two minutes later when senior Alec Nelson found senior Tyler Andrew near the top of the box, but Roberts caught Andrew's shot. Senior Danny Carlson took the Sailors' second shot on a direct kick, which Roberts swallowed up as well.
Midway through the second half, senior Alex VanEnglenburg added Rifle's fifth goal.
Seven players scored the Bears' seven goals. Seniors Bryan Cloninger and Justin Berry added the final two Rifle goals.
"We like to attack from anywhere," Taucher said.
Although the Bears appear to be a veteran squad, Taucher said many of the upperclassmen have limited varsity experience, but Rifle does have a returning core it continues to build on.
Steamboat, on the other hand, didn't come into this season with a large group of veteran players. Instead, many youngsters are learning how to play at the varsity level with each match. Senior Alec Nelson started varsity as a sophomore and is watching those behind him fill a similar role.
"They have come a long way," he said. "We are a real young team. They are gaining a lot of experience this year."
Consequently, Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann isn't emphasizing results. Rifle may have been the better team Saturday, but Bohlmann was disappointed in the Sailors' level of play compared with what they showed in a Sept. 14 loss to Battle Mountain.
"Our whole focus is to get progression," Bohlmann said. "We didn't get much progression from Battle Mountain to this game, and that's what we talked about."
Steamboat (2-4 overall, 2-3 in the Western Slope League) returns to action at 4 p.m. Tuesday against Eagle Valley.