Reboot for state tournament
This past weekend the Crested Butte Titans soccer team gutted out back-to-back wins over Center and Alamosa to seal the league title and finish with a perfect 12-0 league record. It’s the first time the team has ever posted an undefeated season in league play. They’ll return to the state tournament after missing out last season.
Odds were against the Titans to finish league play undefeated, finishing up with a frantic schedule of six games in 12 days, including five on the road.
They knocked off the first three games with wins over Telluride, Pagosa Springs and Bayfield and returned home to face the Ridgway Demons on Tuesday, October 8. The Demons have crushed the spirit of the Titans several times in the past and sent them into a tailspin for the final week of league play.
This time around, the Titans dug deep to break the Demon curse. The Titans scored in the fifth minute when Kaleb Schultz crashed the far post to head in a corner kick from Solon Gray.
From that point on it was anyone’s game and the Titans defense did what was necessary to hold off the Ridgway attack.
The Titans built on their lead in the second half when Sam Reaman drilled a shot from 20 yards out to beat the Demon keeper for a 2-0 Titans lead.
Ridgway pushed all of their speed up front but the Titans held off numerous attacks to seal the win and improve to 10-0 in league play.
“That was huge, that was the turning point in our season” says senior captain Ian Dethloff. “If we had lost that game, we might not have finished first place in our league, which is important for state.”
But the Titans were far from done with their heroics, with Center and Alamosa standing between them and an undefeated record.
Crested Butte cruised to an easy 7-0 win over Center earlier in the season but high school sports are what they are and no game is guaranteed. Furthermore, Center was prepared to play the spoiler, hosting their final home game of the regular season. In addition, the Titans were missing starting defender Nate Hoskin to illness and Schultz to injury.
Ashton Mabry was called in to fill the gap on defense and Taylor Acheson was called upon to start as striker and both players filled the roles near perfectly with stellar play.
The game opened as expected with the Titans setting up three golden scoring chances in the first 15 minutes but the shots missed their mark and the two teams remained locked in a 0-0 tie. Twenty minutes into the game Center converted on a direct kick to go up 1-0 and the Titans were feeling the heat.
Schultz came off the bench to try to swing the momentum back in Crested Butte’s favor but Center was riding high on the lead and handcuffed the Titans’ attack.
The Titans’ troubles continued in the second half but they got a break when Ionut Sustic slipped a pass through to Prawit Durgan and Durgan scored to tie the game 1-1 with 15 minutes left.
Both teams traded off rushes and the Titans returned to better form but failed to find the back of the net as the game headed into overtime.
Pressed for the win, Crested Butte took back control of the game and finally broke the tie with 13 seconds left in overtime when Reaman carried the ball to the end line and crossed it to Dakota Wiggins just inside the six-yard box for the game-winner.
“There was a little panic,” says Dethloff. “We underestimated them but we knew we had to work hard, get the equalizer and get the win in overtime.”
The overtime effort left the Titans little time to get back on the bus and head to Alamosa for the second game of the day, as they arrived just 15 minutes before kick-off.
A quick stretch, some water and a whistle and the game was on. The impact of the Center effort was immediately obvious as Alamosa’s speed dictated play the first 15 minutes of the game. Fortunately, the Titans back four of Mabry, Josh Melnick, Danny Stoneberg and Thomas Taaca were tight enough to hold off the initial attack. As the half continued, the efforts of Issac Evans and Durgan in the midfield turned the game’s momentum back in Crested Butte’s favor, but Crested Butte struggled in the offensive third.
Crested Butte pushed hard to open the second half and despite tired legs, started finding seams in the Alamosa defense. But Alamosa has, arguably, the best keeper in the league and he turned away three great Titans shots to preserve the 0-0 tie.
Stoneberg continued to own the ball out of the air and feed it back into Alamosa’s half but fatigue set in and Alamosa dominated play midway through the second half.
The Titans held on and Dethloff pulled off a couple of saves as the Titans finally got their break late in the game.
With five minutes left, the Titans ran a corner kick play flawlessly and Schultz found Reaman open on the far post through traffic. Reaman took one touch to bury the game winner and finish league play with a 12-0 record, the first time ever for Titans soccer.
“We brought more of our game in the second half and just never gave up,” says Dethloff. “It felt great. Usually we tank at the end of the season but we finally completed what we started, which is pretty sweet.”
The Titans have a break until the state tournament and will find out on Sunday, October 20 where they are seeded. If all goes as planned, the Titans should host the first round of state at Rainbow Field on Thursday or Friday, October 24 or 25.
The Titans have never pushed through the first round but are looking to break the seal this time around.
“The team’s a little uneasy because we haven’t finished some games the way we wanted to,” says Dethloff. “We’re looking forward to getting that first win ever for CBCS in the first round of state.”