The problem for the Moffat County boys soccer team this season has been holding onto early leads. At least for one night, the problem was solved.
The Bulldogs scored twice in the first 10 minutes against Steamboat Springs and held on to keep the Sailors scoreless in the second half for a 3-1 win.
The Steamboat Springs soccer team played the first five minutes without one player in memory of Sailor senior Adele Dombrowski, who died Saturday morning. There was also a moment of silence before the game. The visiting Moffat County team wore black bands on their lower leg in memory of Dombrowski and made a donation to her memorial fund.
"After we score early, I would love to call a timeout and get our guys settled down," Moffat County coach Jeff Hammond said. "They get so caught up in the excitement, sometimes they get out of position."
The visitors jumped ahead with a penalty kick from senior Pepe Loya in the sixth minute. Loya was taken down from behind in the box on his first scoring opportunity of the night. Two minutes later, Bulldogs senior Schuyler Hammond sent a free kick from 30 yards out over seemingly surprised sophomore keeper Elliot Girard.
"I thought it had gone over the top," Schuyler Hammond said. "Then I looked at the referee, and he signaled goal, and I went nuts."
The Sailors controlled the next 20 minutes with six shots on goal, including a goal from junior Nick Labor in the 27th minute. Labor dribbled past two Bulldog defenders before putting a shot over the top of Bulldog goalie Malcolm Hillewaert.
Two minutes later, Hillewaert deflected a shot that went right to junior David Comeau, but his return was a foot wide of the goal.
"We let down for a while there and almost let them back in," Coach Hammond said.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, the Bulldogs were able to create two opportunities. Loya headed a free kick from Schuyler Hammond into the post during the 33rd minute. Loya found the net in the 38th minute when he lofted a shot from the 30 yards out that caught Girard too far up.
In the second half, Steamboat played its control game and Moffat played its kick-the-long-ball-and-run game, but neither was successful.
The style differences were evident during most of the game.
"Battle Mountain and Fruita (Monument) both play a similar style to us," Coach Hammond said. "It's what works for us."
In the 22nd minute, Moffat senior Nate Berner collected one of those long balls in front of the net and put it past Girard, but the goal was negated because the referee ruled Berner had interfered with the goalie.
In the final 12 minutes, Steamboat mounted its comeback attempt, but it became the Malcolm Hillewaert Save Show.
The Bulldog keeper made three saves in which he was completely extended vertically or horizontally to reach the ball. In his final save, he completely laid out to his left.
"It might have been going wide, but I couldn't stop myself," Hillewaert said. "It was probably one of my top 10 saves."
Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann gave Hillewaert credit for being "brilliant," but he talked to his team about not allowing opposing goalies to look so good.
"We need to keep the ball low," he told them. "To beat good goalies, you have to go low."
Coach Hammond said his four senior captains (Schuyler Hammond, Hillewaert, Loya and Berner) were brilliant.
"They kept us in it tonight," he said. "This was a big win for us and for the playoff picture."
Schuyler Hammond said it was a big win for his school.
"We really wanted to win it after the football game," he said.
The Sailors (1-3-1 Western Slope League, 1-5-1 overall) play at Glenwood on Saturday. Moffat (3-3, 3-5) faces Eagle Valley at home Saturday.