Steamboat Springs There is still a month left in high school soccer's regular season, but Tuesday night's game between Steamboat and Battle Mountain seemed more like the playoffs.
"We've had this game circled from the day they beat us," Battle Mountain coach Dave Cope said after the game. "To have the first- and second-place teams battling it out under the lights - this was a great atmosphere."
The game took on a playoff feel from the opening kickoff. Battle Mountain, which suffered its only loss of the season to Steamboat Springs, controlled the ball during the first half and didn't allow Steamboat to settle into the game.
"Battle Mountain was a class act in the first half," Sailors coach Rob Bohlmann said. "We struggled to possess and to get our numbers forward. Battle Mountain really ran the show."
The Huskies, now 4-1 in the Western Slope League, took advantage of two big first-half opportunities and the quickness of junior forward Jose Pavon. The foot of goalie D.J. Van Curan set up Battle Mountain's first opportunity. His long goal kick helped Pavon beat the Sailors defense down the field. He ended the run by kicking the ball past Steamboat goalkeeper Eric Carlson with just more than 24 minutes left in the first half. Pavon got another breakaway opportunity 10 minutes later. This time, teammate Chris Woodruff poked the ball past a Steamboat defender. Pavon was the first player to get to the ball, setting up a one-on-one with Carlson, who came out of the goal for the stop. Pavon made a quick move and fired the ball into the open net to put the Huskies up, 2-0, at the half.
"Scoring early in the first half gave us a lot of confidence," Pavon said. "We knew it was going to be important to get an early advantage, and I was able to get free and score."
But despite falling behind two goals and struggling to find an offensive rhythm, the Sailors came out hard in the second half. Steamboat created several opportunities as the Huskies dug in to hold off the rush.
"We never really found a rhythm in the whole game. It was a shaky first half. We started to put some things together in the second half, but just couldn't get back into the game," Steamboat's David Comeau said.
Part of the reason was that Battle Mountain crowded Steamboat's offensive zone in the second half and double-teamed the Sailors biggest offensive threats.
"It was hard," Steamboat's Sam Houston said. "They were playing five in the back, and they had two guys just following me around most of the time."
But as Steamboat continued to push up, the opportunities on goal increased. Houston just missed on a couple of chances early in the second half, and then with 11:21 left, he finally hit pay dirt.
"(Hig) Roberts kicked it, and I saw it coming through," Houston said. "The guy tapped it, and I saw it come in perfectly, so I took it."
Houston drove to the right side of the net and fired a perfectly placed shot that found the left corner. The goal ignited the Sailors' spirits in the final minutes of the game, but Battle Mountain would not surrender the lead.
The Huskies crowded Steamboat's offensive end of the field and punched the ball downfield and into the corners to kill the final 10 minutes of the game.
The loss drops the Sailors to 2-1-1 in league play and behind Battle Mountain in the standings. The Huskies will face Moffat County at home Saturday, and the Sailors will travel to Palisade to take on the Bulldogs.
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