Steamboat’s Mac Noel chases a ball Saturday in a win against Palisade. The Sailors play Thursday at Battle Mountain in a game that could decide the league champion.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat’s Mac Noel chases a ball Saturday in a win against Palisade. The Sailors play Thursday at Battle Mountain in a game that could decide the league champion.

Steamboat soccer has league on the line at Battle Mountain

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— Anyone who has been around the Steamboat Springs or Battle Mountain high school soccer programs won’t be shocked at the following sentence: Thursday’s 6 p.m. game at Battle Mountain almost certainly will decide the Western Slope League championship.

Doesn’t it seem like it does every year?

“It does seem like that,” Huskies coach David Cope said.

Of course, a win Thursday won’t necessarily secure a league title. But with a Steamboat win or tie, the Sailors control their own destiny with three games left. Only two of them are league tilts.

Should Battle Mountain win, the Huskies would hold the tiebreaker advantage with just one league game remaining.

“The meetings between our two teams usually have a pretty heavy relevance,” Steamboat coach Rob Bohlmann said.

The Sailors (9-1-1 overall, 6-0-1 in league) won the previous meeting Sept. 17 at home, 2-1.

Steamboat’s Hanson Buchner knocked in a penalty kick in the 75th minute for the win. But does the first game have relevance to Thursday’s game?

On that drizzly Saturday, the Huskies had the run of play for the first 40 minutes, and the Sailors had it for the second 40. If anything, the first matchup simply underscored just how well-matched the two teams are.

Still, there might not be a hotter team than the Huskies (9-1-2, 6-1-1). Since the loss to Steamboat, Battle Mountain has gone 6-0-1 and picked up the most impressive win for the league this year, a 4-2 triumph against highly regarded Cheyenne Mountain.

The Sailors still could be without the services of several playmakers, including seniors Enrique Lopez and Wilber Ranieri.

It should be a battle of opposing strengths again. Steamboat has proved keen in finding the back of the net this year, scoring goals in bunches. Battle Mountain has given up more than one goal in a game just twice this year — with one of those coming against Steamboat.

Each coach agreed that scoring opportunities would be limited tonight and that the team best able to control the offensive and defensive penalty boxes would win.

“It’s finishing our opportunities,” Bohlmann said. “It’s finishing our opportunities at least one more time than them.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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