Branded: ‘Horns burn Skiers |

Branded: ‘Horns burn Skiers

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

BASALT ” Despite two vexing draws to open league play, Basalt head soccer coach John McDermott was convinced the goals would come.

He didn’t expect this.

No one did.

Austin Johnson scored twice in the first 11 minutes and teammate Craig Riggins added two goals before halftime Tuesday against visiting Aspen. The Longhorns quickly turned a contentious, physical bout between perennial conference powers into a laugher, scoring five more times during the second half in a 9-2 rout of the rival Skiers.

“I’ve been waiting for them to score. … I would’ve settled for three or four goals,” McDermott said. “I didn’t expect us to dominate so well in the end. It really shows the character of this team.”

Basalt (1-2-2 overall, 1-0-2 3A Region 7) scored just once in 200 minutes in two previous matches against Vail Mountain School and Roaring Fork.

Through four games, the 2007 conference champions were searching for their typical offensive potency ” and a first win.

“[Those two games] were extremely frustrating because we dominated both and had over 20 shots,” Johnson said. “We just couldn’t put it into the back of the net. The last four or five days, we mainly just practiced our shooting and crossing.”

It paid off early Tuesday. Kenny Reyes and Johnson connected twice on scores ” first on a give-and-go in the third minute, then on a pass up the left side that Johnson controlled and fired sharply to Skiers goalkeeper Tyler Nelson; Nelson got two gloves and part of his jersey on the ball, but it squirted away.

Basalt’s assault on the Aspen net and Nelson, a sophomore who was filling in for injured starter Alex Owen, was just beginning. After Skiers striker Jesus Meza scored in traffic midway through the half, Riggins answered back in the 37th minute. He and Aspen defender Terry Leitch collided while tracking down a pass deep in Aspen’s end and the ball bounced left. Riggins alertly pounced, and, with his left leg outstretched, slid and fired a low liner to beat Nelson.

Little more than two minutes later, Riggins struck again, controlling a pass on his chest, then transferring it directly to his foot before tucking a shot into the top left corner.

The four first-half scores matched the Longhorns’ total through four games.

“That was a big weight lifted off us,” Longhorns sweeper Marshall Cleveland said of the early goals. “It made me want to get more in, to put some salt in the wound.”

They did, although not before Aspen made one final comeback bid. The Skiers controlled possession and the midfield in the opening minutes of the second, generating multiple scoring chances. Meza nearly scored on his team’s first possession, but his kick from close range sailed mere feet beyond the far post. Kyle Lusk rattled the crossbar in the 42nd minute but came up empty. The senior cradled his head in his hands as he jogged back toward midfield.

The extended pressure generated a Basalt penalty on Cleveland in the box soon after. Kelly Selby pulled Aspen within two when he beat goalkeeper Scott Riggins with a strong shot into the top left corner.

“We had a bit of a rude awakening in the second half,” Cleveland said. “They had the ball inside our 18 for the first 10 minutes before we finally got back into the groove.”

Johnson quelled the short-lived Skiers rally minutes later with a free kick from midfield that bounced off both a defender and Nelson before finding the net.

The fortuitous bounces kept coming, as Basalt scored four times in the final 12 minutes. Five Longhorns found the net in the match.

“The kids are embarrassed. I’m embarrassed,” said Aspen head coach Junior Sutherland, whose team dropped both games to the Longhorns last season. Oct. 2’s 5-2 loss effectively eliminated the Skiers from playoff contention.

“We made Basalt look good.”

In a league rife with parity in the early going, Basalt made a statement of their own Tuesday.

“This is a big win, but it’s not something we can dwell on,” said McDermott, whose team hosts VMS at 4 p.m. Thursday. “We’ll get back to practice and try to get better and better.”

“I knew we had this in us, at least to beat them,” Marshall said. “I never thought we would win 9-2. … It feels amazing.”

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