At long last, Coal Ridge bests Longhorns | AspenTimes.com

At long last, Coal Ridge bests Longhorns

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan Special to The Aspen TimesCoal Ridge's Alfonso Hernandez boots a ball past Longhorns goalkeeper Scott Riggins as Christian Morlind defends in the closing minutes of Thursday's game in Basalt.

BASALT – Brian Blair doesn’t want Coal Ridge to get ahead of itself. After all, this is just one victory – it will not even count toward the conference standings.

Still, the Titans’ head soccer coach could not help but smile after Thursday’s hard-fought win at Basalt.

“I think this is the first time we’ve ever beaten them,” he said. “In one way, this means nothing. … But in another, psychologically, this is huge. They’re such a good program and are always organized and always dangerous.

“It was nice to see us make the big play at the finish.”

For that, Blair can thank forward Alfonso Hernandez.

The senior staked the Titans to a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute, then, after the Longhorns squared the match late in the second half, he struck twice in little more than a minute to help Coal Ridge seal a 3-1 victory in a battle of 3A Region 3 powers.

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“This is a big confidence boost,” Hernandez said. “This was our main goal. After the last couple or five years losing to them, we can’t ask for better than this.”

“We just got outplayed a little. We didn’t come as fully prepared as we should have,” Basalt head coach John McDermott added.

“There were a couple of bad calls that [the players] seemed to take personally. … That’s the sign of a young team sometimes.”

The call – or lack thereof – McDermott likely was referring to ultimately decided the outcome.

His Longhorns had just battled back to tie the game on a goal in the 79th minute; Santiago Marciani was knocked to the ground during a scrum in front of the net but still managed to flick the ball past Titans goalkeeper Tyler Guettler.

About nine minutes later, Hernandez tracked down a ball on the left side and collided with a defender, who was knocked to the ground. Hernandez maintained possession and beat Basalt goalkeeper Craig Riggins with a low liner.

The no-call caused consternation on the home bench – they thought Hernandez blatantly shoved their player with his elbow – but jubilation on the visitor’s side.

“[I don’t think there was a whistle] because I got through him. If he stopped [my progress], then maybe,” Hernandez said. “[The referee] saw me going and let the play go.”

“When it’s physical like that the whole game, it’s tough to take a chance away from a team,” Blair added.

“Obviously, I’m biased.”

In their haste to produce the equalizer, the Longhorns flooded the Titans zone soon after. Basalt (1-1) was caught out of position on a run the opposite way, leaving Hernandez all alone for an easy tap-in to finish off his hat trick.

His first score came in the latter stages of the opening half, when two Basalt defenders mishandled a through-ball from Guettler, leaving Hernandez to convert a one-on-one opportunity against Riggins.

“We had our chances, we just didn’t exploit them,” McDermott said. “It’s just one of those things.”

“This was a big jump from our other games in terms of aggressiveness and talent,” added Blair, whose squad improved to 3-0 on the young season. “We needed this.”

The two teams are slated to square off again Oct. 19 at Peach Valley. The Longhorns next visit Grand Valley at 11 a.m. Saturday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com