Moffat County came into Tuesday's soccer contest against Steamboat Springs with momentum, having downed Rifle on Saturday.
On the other hand, Steamboat Springs had lost three in a row.
But from the opening minute of play, it was clear to everyone at Gardner Field, as well as to Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann, that Steamboat had snapped whatever problems were ailing them.
In the first scoring opportunity of the game, Steamboat's Nick Labor crossed the ball to the middle, where Daniel Wright scrambled for a shot before Moffat County could clear the ball. Bulldog goalkeeper Mike Lefler stopped the initial, point-blank shot, but Steamboat's Sam Houston capitalized on the rebound, putting Steamboat up, 1-0.
"(Our defense) was just not going after the ball," Lefler said. "We were just watching instead of pressuring the ball."
The Steamboat defense was able to effectively shut down Moffat's attack in the first half and generate offensive counter-attacks.
"We were working on trying to possess a lot more out of the back and look for our target players," said Steamboat fullback Robert Sorenson.
Working with one-touch passes and give-and-go combinations, Steamboat generated many early looks - some just wide, two hitting the post and four first-half shots saved by Lefler.
With 25 minutes left in the half, Steamboat's David Comeau nailed striker Daniel Wright, who scored to put Steamboat up, 2-0.
Seven minutes later, Comeau added a third Steamboat goal by hitting in a rebound off of Lefler from a direct kick blasted at the far post from Steamboat's Max Hamil.
Moffat County had one offensive opportunity before the close of the half on an Alvara Rodriquez shot.
Moffat County came out in the second half with more tenacity and physical play on the defensive end, turning down Steamboat opportunities with strong play from Tucker Bilodeau, Armando Lopez and Ian Forgay.
Ten minutes into the second half, Forgay got tripped up while clearing the ball from a Steamboat corner kick. A collision sent him to the turf, where he lay motionless before regaining consciousness and leaving for the rest of the game.
The remainder of the second half showcased some sloppy play on both sides that led to a pair of yellow cards for the Bulldogs and a string of Steamboat penalties that repeatedly set up Moffat County for direct kicks in Steamboat territory. With their best chance coming on a Jose Valdez shot lofted just over the goal, the Bulldogs were unable to crack the stingy Sailors' defense.
Comeau added a fourth goal in the final two minutes of play with a little help from starting Steamboat goalkeeper Bjorn Lickteig, playing in the field, to end the game, 4-0.
Now 2-8 in league, the only positive sentiment Moffat coach Jeff Hammond had for his team's play was its ability to keep the Sailors to a single goal in the second half.
Bohlmann hopes his team, now 6-5-1 overall and 5-3-1 in league, can carry the same energy into their final stretch of three league games, which they hope to win in order to secure a playoff spot.
"We've got a huge weekend ahead of us," Sorenson said of the games, which begin with a game at 6 p.m. Friday at home against Palisade.
- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253, or e-mail email@example.com