Basalt midfielder is 3A Slope’s MVP | AspenTimes.com

Basalt midfielder is 3A Slope’s MVP

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

BASALT Basalt soccer player Mike Eaton’s 2007 statistics were hardly gaudy. In fact, they were downright pedestrian.His five goals were third best on the team. Five Longhorns matched or exceeded his tally of three assists. But ask John McDermott who the main catalyst behind Basalt’s ascension to the top of the 3A Western Slope rankings was, and the coach will answer without hesitation.”Mikey is the magnet on this team,” McDermott said. “He kept them together and was consistent every game.”We weren’t a one-man scoring team. Scoring doesn’t make you a player of the year.”The conference’s coaches agreed. Last season, Aspen’s Stephen Buzbee was a shoo-in for league player of the year after scoring 28 times – the third-highest total in all of 3A. This season, Eaton’s intangibles, like Buzbee’s goals in 2006, were too hard to ignore.The midfielder recently was named Slope player of the year, an honor he shares with Roaring Fork goalkeeper Torrey Udall.”I don’t really know what to say,” Eaton said Friday. “I thought there were a few guys on this team that could’ve won it. I was amazed.”

Eaton headlines a first team that includes five other Longhorns – Christian Gallegos, Matt Whittier, Ryan Mylott, Toby Bopp and John Peckler. Four others – Andrew Overstreet, Chris Doll, Marshall Cleveland and Austin Johnson – were honorable mentions. And for his efforts, McDermott was named coach of the year. Eaton is the first Longhorns player since Felipe Sanchez in 2005 to win the league’s top individual postseason accolade. And he proved once again that this award is all in the family. Eaton’s brother, Cy, was league MVP in 2003 and 2004. Ashley Eaton took home the award in 2004, after a senior year in which she scored 15 goals and assisted on 17 others.”He’s been living in the shadow of his brother for the last 15 years, and, of course, his sister was a great player,” McDermott said. “But he grew up [and succeeded] because of his intensity.”Eaton insists that, while teammates constantly reminded him about his siblings’ successes, his mind was focused elsewhere.”Everybody seemed to think I had to live up to my brother and sister, but I was just trying to win state and get our team as far as I could,” Eaton said. “I was trying to do whatever it takes. … Those things didn’t faze me. I didn’t think I could win it anyway.”Eaton had a knack for shining in the biggest moments. He came up with a golden goal in early September against Coal Ridge, lifting the Longhorns to the 2-1 overtime victory and snapping a 75-minute Basalt scoring drought.

With his team trailing, 2-1, with just 17 minutes to play against rival Aspen on Oct. 2, Eaton provided the spark once more. Just two minutes after the Skiers took a one-goal edge, Eaton connected on the equalizer. The goal keyed a late surge as the Longhorns connected twice more to pull out the 4-1 victory and complete the season sweep over Aspen. “I don’t know really what made me stand out, but I feel like I held the team together during down times out there,” Eaton said. “I tried to keep everyone’s heads up.””There’s a reason he was my main captain,” McDermott said. “He never doubted himself. When he got Christian in front, he was unbelievable.”When early-season eligibility issues were sorted out and Gallegos finally made it onto the field, the senior left a lasting impression – just ask the defenders who tried in vain to take the ball from him. He had four goals and two assists.”He’s absolutely brilliant. He’s always two steps ahead,” McDermott said. “He’s one of those kids that plays for his team and his mates.”Gallegos teamed with Toby Bopp, Matt Whittier and John Peckler to create a formidable offensive attack. Bopp, A German exchange student whom McDermott called a “beautiful surprise,” led the Longhorns in both goals (10) and assists (5).Whittier, a converted defender, had ample opportunities to showcase his speed during runs on the outside. The captain had eight goals and three assists. Peckler added one goal and three assists.

When it was in need of a defensive stop, Basalt looked no further than sweeper Ryan Mylott. He teamed with German exchange student Chris Doll and goalkeeper Marshall Cleveland – both honorable mentions – to thwart scoring chances.”Ryan was just always there,” McDermott said. “He stopped so many goals it was unbelievable. He wanted to play up front, but we wanted him back there. He was such an asset.” McDermott and the Longhorns overcame an 0-2 start, eligibility issues that depleted the roster and injuries to capture the league crown. For his involvement, league coaches honored McDermott in his second season with Basalt. “There are some really good coaches in this division. The league came up 50 percent better in terms of play and that reflects on the coaches,” McDermott said. “It was a great year.”McDermott maintained his calm, reassuring demeanor during a season of personal unrest. That fact was not lost on Eaton, who drew inspiration from his coach’s struggle.”He had three family members die this season, and the way he dealt with that was pretty amazing,” Eaton said. “Him being able to overcome that showed us we should be able to overcome anything.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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