Crowning achievement for ‘Horns
BASALT After a one-year hiatus, the Longhorns are back on top of the 3A Western Slope.The perennial power, which finished second to a senior-laden Aspen squad last season, scored two first-half goals and cruised to the 2-0 victory over Roaring Fork, clinching its fifth league crown in the last sixth seasons.”Being on top is a great feeling,” senior Mike Eaton said.The Rams bolstered Basalt’s chances of winning the league Tuesday when they played Vail Mountain School to a 2-2 draw. The Longhorns, who were playing at nearby Colorado Rocky Mountain School on Tuesday, received updates from parents who periodically drove to Roaring Fork High School to check on the action.As a result, The Longhorns’ fate was squarely in their hands; they either had to win Saturday or record a draw and surrender no more than five goals.No complicated math was needed here. Basalt peppered Rams goalkeeper Torrey Udall with a flurry of shots at the onset, connected on an indirect kick deep in the Roaring Fork zone in the 12th minute, and led for the duration. Christian Gallegos lined up for the kick, then passed off to Eaton who immediately returned the ball. Gallegos fired a shot that cleared a wall of Rams and tucked into the bottom right corner. “They were confident, and they’re playing well,” Basalt coach John McDermott said. “We were opening space, using short passes and supporting each other.”Forward Kevin Newland’s individual effort stretched the lead in the 19th minute. Newland took on a defender and dribbled down the right side before looking to the middle. He lofted a shot to no one in particular near the back post. Udall jumped to deflect the shot, tipped it, then knocked the ball into the net with his back as he fell to the ground. “In the last week, we didn’t play to our full potential,” Eaton said. “We moved the ball great today. There were a lot of nice 1-2 passes.”Longhorns goalkeeper Marshall Cleveland smothered Roaring Fork’s early attempt to square the match. Basalt defender Ryan Mylott was whistled for taking down an opponent in the box, setting up a Rams penalty shot in the 18th minute. Cleveland darted to his left on the ensuing shot, and snagged the ball out of the air with both hands. “We’re coming together on a lot of different levels,” Cleveland said. “But it hasn’t been easy.”In a season rife with parity, The Longhorns exerted more effort on their run to the title than in years past. While they went 11-1 in league, six games were decided by two or fewer goals. “It definitely made us realize we’re not unbeatable,” Cleveland said. “Last year, if it wasn’t for Aspen, we had an easy time,” Eaton said. “This year everyone is improved, and it’s been more of a challenge.” Both McDermott and his players agreed the heightened effort needed to pull out this title made the feat extra special. They also hope the high level of competition has sufficiently prepared them to compete with teams on the Front Range.The Longhorns were outscored, 10-0, in the season’s first two games against Kent Denver and Denver Christian, the state’s second- and fourth-ranked teams, respectively. Results should be different this time, Eaton said.”We’ve worked hard every game, so we’ll be used to it,” he added. “Now we’ve got our full team. Those teams think they know what’s coming, but they could be surprised.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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