Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs High School boys soccer team topped Eagle Valley, 2-0, on Tuesday night, setting the stage for two Thursday showdowns that will determine the Western Slope League title.
Shortly after defeating the Devils in a tidy win at Gardner Field, the Sailors became Eagle Valley's biggest fans. That's because the Devils play Battle Mountain on Thursday, and an Eagle Valley win or tie coupled with a Steamboat victory against Moffat County on Thursday will give the Sailors the title.
Battle Mountain has 27 points in the league standings, and Steamboat has 25.
"We're a fan of Eagle winning a game, and we're a fan of Eagle coming away with a draw," Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said. "But first and foremost, we had a big slip-up with Moffat the last game at their place last year. They're a good team."
Tuesday's win was the result of an aggressive Steamboat attack.
From the start, the Sailors played their classic possession style, but they looked more aggressive with a pushing attack. It paid off in the seventh minute.
Tony Rende, after spending most of the season trying to recover from mononucleosis, found the ball on his foot and slipped it inside the post for a 1-0 Steamboat lead.
"It was huge," Rende said. "Especially for me. Three times the ball came to me, and my touch was horrible. It allowed us to play our own game instead of theirs."
The early lead helped Steamboat relax without letting up. The Sailors continued their attack through much of the first half, getting chances in the 17th minute on an Enrique Lopez run up the right side and in the 39th minute when Eagle Valley goalkeeper Mario Gonzalez turned away a Grant Murray opportunity on a corner kick.
Meanwhile, Eagle Valley - and more specifically, its playmaker Marco Escobar - found little room inside the attacking box. With minimal space to work, the Devils had to settle for long distance shots, which made a relatively easy day for Sailors keeper Connor Birch.
The Devils had to sub multiple times as the game went on. The swine flu recently hit the school, and a majority of Eagle Valley's team was feeling the effects.
"We didn't have that snap to get to the ball," Devils coach Jason Rittmiller said. "Things were a little more difficult. I would rather get the first goal. But we responded and were coming back and looking better. But as the game wore on, our guys were wore out."
Eagle Valley's Gonzalo Gomez almost got the equalizer in the 41st minute, but his shot to the right post was batted away by a diving Birch.
That would be Eagle Valley's last good chance at a goal.
Steamboat, however, didn't sit back. Playing as well as they have all season, the Sailors put the game away in the 69th minute.
On a perfect set play, Sam Glaisher sent a ball from just inside midfield into the box. Lopez headed it back to a trailing Andrew White, who put it inside the post for a 2-0 Steamboat lead.
Although Steamboat will root for Eagle Valley on Thursday, the team knows the focus has to remain on a young but dangerous Moffat County team.
In the final game last season, Steamboat went to Moffat and lost in an upset.
"Moffat's a good team," Bohlmann said. "They're young but good. They have a lot of confidence remembering last year. They have a lot of confidence from that standpoint. We have to play hard, play simple and get the job done."