Basalt clips Eagles with eight goals in first half |

Basalt clips Eagles with eight goals in first half

Basalt senior Felipe Sanchez, background, taps one past Paonia junior defender Sam Hatch (20) to score his third goal in the first half at Basalt High School Tuesday afternoon. Basalt lead Paonia 8-0 after one half and won, 9-0. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

If you’re curious how well the Basalt boys soccer team is playing these days, you might ask head coach Erik Streff, who is convinced his team is peaking at the right time.You might ask goalkeeper Jamie Wirkler, who has not seen an opposing goal scored since Sept. 17. the senior was relegated to bystander status in Thursday’s game against winless Paonia (0-12, 0-8), splitting much of the first half between crossing his arms to stay warm and shouting out words of encouragement from the vacant side of the field.You could also talk with forward Felipe Sanchez, who recorded a hat trick and had three assists against the Eagles – in the first half.Both seniors, in the final regular-season home game of their careers, looked on as the Longhorns offense scored eight first-half goals and cruised to the 9-0 victory against the overmatched Eagles.”We’re connecting pretty well right now,” Sanchez said. “We came out with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm. In our last game against [Paonia], we came out thinking we were gonna crush them, and didn’t score until the 27th minute. Today, we came out focused.”

Basalt’s offensive attack was in full swing two minutes into the game, when Luke Caudill controlled a centering pass from Sanchez and scored. Less than a minute later, Sanchez led senior David Rosales with a perfect pass and Rosales slammed the ball into the back of the net.One minute later, junior Ryan Zubizarreta headed a centering pass into the back of the net. The Longhorns scored on three of their first five shots on goal.The hapless Eagles did not have time to breathe, as any hopes of notching their first win of the season were abruptly and convincingly dashed. Basalt (10-2, 8-0) has outscored Paonia 19-0 in two contests this season. “We’ve been trying to have quicker passes and touches and to hold onto the ball,” Streff said. “We were moving quicker than we have all year.”The Eagles looked like they were standing in quicksand as the Longhorns offense continued to apply pressure. Sanchez scored the next three goals to put Basalt ahead, 6-0, after 30 minutes of play. First, Sanchez stopped a ball at his feet and launched a strong shot to the top left of the net. Next, On a long pass from Rosales, Sanchez outran a defender for the ball and scored from a difficult angle wide of the net.

Sanchez was playing so well that even when he mishit the ball – as he did on a breakaway minutes later – the ball bounced on the wet grass and mud and into the corner of the net.Sanchez notched a third first-half assist when he froze a Paonia defender with some slick footwork, then passed the ball back with the heel of his cleat to a wide-open Rosales. “Three goals in the first five minutes is a great accomplishment,” Sanchez said. “We’re getting there, but our goal is to improve every game.”After Alex Giglio scored on a centering pass from Zubizarreta near the close of the first to stretch the lead to eight, Streff decided to slow the pace.He restricted his players to scoring chances on corner kicks and well-placed crossing shots in the second half. He advised his players to work on control and to distribute the ball more effectively.

As a result, Basalt scored just one goal in the second. Giglio headed home a pass from David Strickbine with 10 minutes remaining.”We were trying to work on and isolate a few things in the second,” Streff said. “I think we’re learning a lot and really growing as a team right now.”The Longhorns have won six consecutive games dating back to a Sept. 15 loss at defending 3A champion Salida. Since a 4-0 loss to Faith Christian to open the season, Basalt has won 10 of 11. The Longhorns – eyeing a third straight undefeated conference record – travel to Vail Mountain for a 4 p.m. Thursday game, and visit non-conference opponent Middle Park on Saturday before a season finale in Aspen, Oct. 18. Basalt has outscored Vail Mountain and Aspen by a combined score of 9-1 in previous meetings this season.The Longhorns finished 9-0-1 in Western Slope play in both 2003 and 2004. Both ties came against the Gore Rangers. Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is

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