The home team's offense owned the opening minutes of Tuesday night's soccer game, but it was the Steamboat Springs defense that stole the show in a 2-1 win against the Battle Mountain Huskies.
"They were big," Steamboat Springs Blake Eddington said about his two first half goals. "It gave us the early start that we needed. We tend to do well when we get the early goal."
Eddington put the Sailors up 1-0 shortly after the opening kickoff. He took a nice downfield pass from teammate Josh Fix and then beat Battle Mountain goalie for the score.
But Eddington wasn't done.
A few minutes later, teammate Tony Rende split the Huskies defense with a through pass to set up Eddington's second goal with just more than 30 minutes left to play in the half.
But despite the early lead, the game at Gardner Field was far from over.
In the second half, an emotionally charged Battle Mountain stepped up its attack and refused to go away quietly.
"It was scary for a while," Eddington said. "We did everything we could to hold them off. The defense did a great job. (Connor) Birch was nearly perfect."
Davey DeChant was the only Husky to beat the Steamboat keeper Tuesday night. The Battle Mountain senior sparked his team with 17 minutes left to play with his team's first goal. DeChant got an assist from fellow senior Patrick Baskins.
The goal gave life to an already fired up Battle Mountain team.
But the biggest save of the night wasn't made by Birch - it came courtesy of the goal post with 13 minutes left to play and foiled the Huskies best chance to tie the game. Jair Molina just missed the mark as his shot glanced off the left goal post and back into play.
"The goal post is my best friend tonight," Birch said after the game.
But the Steamboat keeper also gave credit to his defense, saying he got a lot of help from Ryan McConnell, Lars Johnson, Colton Harding and Lucas Stover.
"Our key thing was to try to get the third goal early on in the second half and to put the game away," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "It didn't happen, so when they got that goal, they were emotionally back into it."
Battle Mountain coach David Cope said he challenged his team at the half to come out, and they responded with a strong finish.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of character in the second half," Cope said. "We challenged them at halftime. I told them no matter what happens, let's walk off this field feeling like we pushed Steamboat, we tested them and put everything we had into it. It was a great high school sporting event."
The Steamboat victory gives Eagle Valley a little breathing room in the final stretch of league play in the Western Slope. The Devils now have a one-game advantage at 8-1 (11-1) in league play. The loss drops Battle Mountain into second at 7-2 (9-3) in league play. The Huskies will face Glenwood Springs 5-2 (7-3) in league play Saturday, and Steamboat still is in the hunt at 7-3 (10-3)
"This was a step in the right direction," Bohlmann said. "Now, we just have to see how it goes."