Buzbee, Aspen best ‘Horns | AspenTimes.com

Buzbee, Aspen best ‘Horns

Jon Maletz

Stephen Buzbee hugs Aspen soccer coach Junior Sutherland while Nicky Anastas, left, Matt Cooper and Murphy Fyrwald run in to celebrate their 2-1 victory over Basalt on Tuesday. Buzbee clinched the win with his header into the back of the net in the 70th minute. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

In its biggest game of the 2006 regular season, the Aspen soccer team looked to its most electric player for a spark. Forward Stephen Buzbee delivered. The 2005 3A Western Slope co-MVP proved to be indispensable yet again, scoring two goals – including the game-winner in the 70th minute – in Aspen’s 2-1 victory over Basalt. The Skiers (9-2 overall, 7-1 3A Western Slope), who entered this season without a win over their rivals in more than five years, completed the regular-season sweep of the Longhorns (7-3-1, 6-2-1). They beat Basalt, 3-1, on Sept. 23. “I kept moving around, and my teammates found me,” Buzbee said. “I’m so proud of this team. We left everything we had out there on the field.”There was little doubt whom Aspen senior Nicky Anastas was looking for with the game tied at one and the clock winding down. After an Aspen player was taken down from behind, 25 yards from the goal, Anastas lined up to take the shot. Buzbee, who was settling into the middle of the box, caught his teammate’s attention.Anastas lofted a pass into the crowd. Buzbee, looking much like a wide receiver jostling for position in the end zone, rose above a Basalt defender and headed the ball past Longhorns keeper Reto Luzi. The home crowd erupted. The Longhorns were stunned.”Stephen lived up to expectations,” Longhorns senior Ryan Zubizarreta said. “He had two of the best goals I’ve ever seen.”They have a team full of seniors. They had a lot more players who wanted this.”

Buzbee, shadowed by multiple defenders throughout the entire game, bided his time during a hotly contested first half. When he finally found an opening – albeit small – in the 38th minute, the senior attacked.

He pushed the ball through two defenders and charged downfield. As Luzi rushed out to impede him, Buzbee hit a soft shot that sailed over Luzi’s outstretched hands and found the net. Coming through in the clutch is nothing new for Buzbee. In the two teams’ previous meeting, he all but secured victory in the 78th minute when he took on a defender, then fired a shot from a difficult angle left of the goal that rattled nylon. The scored stretched Aspen’s lead to 3-1. “It’s like I said, anything is possible with [Buzbee and Anastas],” Aspen head coach Junior Sutherland said. “Buzbee was unbelievable out there.”Basalt was not about to wilt. The Longhorns battled back to tie the score on a free kick in the 47th minute. Moments after Basalt’s Kyle Wood was taken down by Skiers senior Ryder Fyrwald 20 yards from the net, Wood and Zubizarreta lined up to take the kick. Zubizarreta motioned toward the ball, jumped over it, then Wood lined a shot on goal. Aspen keeper Andy Conarroe dove but could not stop the ball from crossing the line.Wood left the game in the 86th minute after colliding with a defender and dislocating his right knee.

“They got a break, and we didn’t,” Basalt coach John McDermott said. “These guys could’ve had it. We were so close. We were about to get another [goal] pretty soon.”The Longhorns, who Zubizarreta said were spurred on by the loss of Wood, made one final, desperate push in the final five minutes. Aspen, despite being slowed by injuries, managed to hold on.Conarroe, who is battling an ailing shoulder, went into traffic to corral a free kick in stoppage time. Moments later, Zubizarreta tested the keeper when he fired from 20 yards out; Conarroe gloved the attempt without hesitation. Aspen’s Baker Boyd, visibly hobbling on an ailing foot, helped Aspen control the midfield for much of the second half before taking himself out with less than 10 minutes to play.”I talked to Baker and Conarroe last night, and I challenged them to step it up and suck it up for 80 minutes,” Sutherland said. “This game really shows the character of these kids and how much they really wanted it. They wouldn’t have missed this.

“They had the desire. Ten of these kids have been together since they were 11. They realized there were no more chances.” Moments after the final whistle Buzbee and Sutherland, their eyes filled with relief and joy, embraced at midfield.”All three years of losing really gets old,” Buzbee said. “This is huge. We’re now in control of the league. This is what we wanted all year.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com