‘Horns advance to state quarters
Junior winger Ben Pollock scored two pivotal goals and the Longhorn defense dealt a shutout as No. 2 seed Basalt put away No. 15 James Irwin of Colorado Springs 3-nil in the first round of the Class 3A boys soccer state tournament Wednesday afternoon at the BHS field.Not the lopsided contest one might have expected between a favorite and an underdog, Pollock revved the Longhorn machine up to postseason form midway through the first half with two nifty (and similar) goals from tough angles along the James Irwin end line.Striker Felipe Sanchez added Basalt’s third goal late in the first half, and Basalt goalie Jamie Wirkler made his one save of the game a beauty with a diving stop off a free kick from just outside the goalie box in the second half.
With the victory, Basalt (14-1-1) advances to the quarterfinals against the winner of today’s No. 7 Peak to Peak vs. No. 10 Kent Denver match. Basalt will host that game, likely next Tuesday or Wednesday. James Irwin (8-6-2), meanwhile, is finished for the season.While Basalt outshot James Irwin 17-to-1 over the course of 80 minutes and set the pace with deft, controlled passing, the ‘Horns at times struggled to match James Irwin’s intensity, with the scoreless second half serving as a testament. Still, Basalt did not squander prime scoring chances, which is perhaps a better gauge of playoff readiness.”They were out to get us and they wanted it bad,” said Basalt’s Sanchez. “And in the first couple of minutes, it scared the crap out of me. But we settled in, did our thing, and we came out victorious.”We’ve got to keep the intensity up the whole 80 minutes in order to beat top teams,” Sanchez continued, “because one bad moment, one bad phase, and top teams will put us out.”
As desperation set in for the James Irwin team in the second half, the referee issued three yellow cards to Jaguars for hard fouls. But Basalt resisted the urge to retaliate and instead continued cat-and-mouse keep away tactics to burn the clock and preserve the shutout.Pollock’s first goal came off a corner kick in the 17th minute. Center midfielder Cy Eaton served a cross over the penalty box, where winger Pollock collected it and fed stopper Jesse Schoeller in tight. But instead of wheeling and shooting, Schoeller passed back to Pollock, now with time and space to work. Pollock then fired a low-angle shot through traffic to the far side-netting of the goal to put Basalt up 1-0.In the 32nd Pollock struck again from the end line after taking a pass from Schoeller. This time, however, Pollock isolated on a defender, promptly burned him and drove toward the net to force James Irwin goalie Curtis Watson to commit and charge. Pollock belted another tough angle shot just as Watson slid and took out his feet. But it was too late; the ball found the far side-netting as Pollock was flying horizontally through the air (a la Bobby Orr’s famous goal).”We came out a little nervous to begin with,” said Basalt head coach Erik Streff, “but they calmed down the last 30 minutes of the first half, I think in part because of Ben’s savvy play making.”
Defender Dennis Morgan set up Sanchez’s goal with a volley over the James Irwin back line. Sanchez trapped it off his left foot at full stride inside the goalie box, settled the ball on the next stride, then ripped a left-footed shot to the far post to put Basalt up 3-0. It marked Morgan’s first points of the season, and the third Basalt goal set up by a defender.”What stood out to me is that a lot of the good opportunities we had, we finished,” said Streff. “And our defense got involved with the offense, which really helped us to create space to work.”They played very well, they’re strong and they’re fast,” said James Irwin coach Joe Dorris. “We knew Felipe [Sanchez] and Cy [Eaton] were effective scorers and we tried to take Cy out of the game by marking him. But we lacked the experience to get it done, I think. But for us to come this far, I’m proud of them.”
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