‘Horns survive one-goal thriller with Titans
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
BASALT ” Lethargic, but victorious. Basalt will surely take it.
Longhorns sweeper Marshall Cleveland bailed out his keeper and Basalt with a sliding clear mere inches from the goal line in the 24th minute, then Johnny Diaz connected with Kenny Reyes for a 54th minute goal to break a scoreless tie. While they lacked their usual punch on both sides of the ball, the Longhorns survived a late Titans push to prevail, 1-0.
Moments after the final whistle, Basalt coach John McDermott shook hands with one of his assistants, then flashed a relieved grin.
“We played down to their level today,” McDermott said. “I’m thankful we came out with three points. … We need a bit of a spark on offense.”
They needed just one score to triumph on this day. After a first half replete with scoring chances and missed opportunities, the Longhorns (5-2-2 overall, 4-0-2 Region 7) finally made one of their open looks count in the 54th minute. Diaz shook free on an abbreviated run up the middle of the pitch, then eyed Reyes charging past a defender and toward the far post. Diaz led Reyes with a well-placed lob, and Reyes slid and booted the ball past a diving Darwin Cortez.
Cortez replaced Coal Ridge starting goalkeeper Victor Hernandez in the 30th minute. Hernandez collided with Basalt forward Austin Long while chasing after a loose ball and took a forearm to the side of the head.
“We got one in and that really took the weight off our shoulders,” Cleveland said. “I definitely think we got pretty lucky.”
That good fortune was on full display during a furious final 20 minutes in which the Titans took aim on Longhorns goalkeeper Scott Riggins. After two corner kicks and a free kick from 40 yards went awry, Cortez gave Coal Ridge its best look at an equalizer with 41⁄2 minutes to play. The senior, who was replaced in goal by Arrick Peck in the waning minutes, uncorked a powerful shot from about 30 yards out that tumbled mere inches outside the far post.
Two minutes later, the Titans’ J.J. Riddile seemingly had an opening as he chased down a booming goal kick deep in Basalt’s end, but Longhorns senior Craig Riggins rapidly closed and knocked the ball out of play.
“When you play that well and can’t seem to find the goal, the coach has got to accept that,” Coal Ridge head coach Brian Blair said. “We built those chances. That’s all you can ask for.”
The chances came early and often. None was bigger than in the 24th minute when Scott Riggins rushed out of the net in an attempt to beat a Titans player to the ball but failed. Coal Ridge had an open shot on goal, but Cleveland alertly slid and punted the ball out of harm’s way.
“I saw their player going outside the 18, then start to cut in, then I saw Scott coming out, and I knew they would try to pass around him,” Cleveland said. “I was lucky to get there in time.”
Scott Riggins stayed between the posts during a run in the 45th minute and made an acrobatic save. Titans senior Eric Schmitz outran two Basalt defenders up the middle, then fired low on Riggins. Riggins dove and smothered the shot.
“Their keeper made a great save. Eric couldn’t have played that much better,” Blair said. “I think that was our most complete game of the year. I don’t think I could be happier after a loss than I am now.”
The mood was decidedly different on the other sideline, especially down the stretch.
“It’s always stressful when you lead by one goal,” McDermott said. “We moved the ball and got it outside, which is what you want, but Coal Ridge came back with a few good efforts.
“You always have games like this. A win’s a win, and now it’s onward to Hotchkiss.”
The Longhorns play the Bulldogs at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
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The canceled 2020 race would have been the fourth running of the Colorado Classic, which each year has included stages in Colorado’s mountain towns before finishing with a final stage in the heart of downtown Denver. Snowmass had been scheduled to host a stage last summer for the first time.