“There are a few things we need to work on, and that’s what we’re going to do,” said RHS boys soccer coach Chuck Siefken following Tuesday’s close match against the Miners. “We’ve got a lot of games coming up, and that will give us a lot of time to prepare” for important end-of-season matches.(The Demons made it to the first round of the State Soccer Championships last season.)
Telluride came out hard on Tuesday, with senior Raul Toledo and freshmen Slater Aplin and Justice James coming out on the front line in an attempt to get their offense going. Despite precise passing throughout the first quarter of the match, the Miners repeatedly met the Demon brick wall of Peter Felde, Devin Overton, Michael Gardner, and Jake Coulter, who were extremely difficult to get around, frustrating the Miners offensive line time and again.
“We dominated the first half, we just couldn’t score,” said frustrated Miners coach Ryan Kusuno following the match.
Ridgway’s Tanner Skalla had a chance to put Ridgway ahead toward the end of the half, but his attempts were thwarted by a swarming Miner defense.
The second half saw an evident increase of intensity from both squads, the action beginning early with Ridgway’s Kolton Kyne pressuring the Miner net. A fast-moving Telluride breakaway minutes later put player Aplin in front of the net with the ball, but undaunted Demon keeper Aaron Mangelsen stepped up to the challenge and batted down the ball. Kyne took back control for Ridgway moments later, sending a picture-perfect shot into the upper right corner of the Miner net, against which goalie Austin Koenig stood no chance.
Thus began a fiery, albeit short-lived, Ridgway offensive onslaught. The Miners’ Koenig kept on his toes, managing to live through an especially intense flurry in front of his net during which the Demons dispatched three rapid-fire shots.
The Miners’ Toledo and James responded with a couple of shots between them, all of which were just off-target. Then Ridgway sophomore Riggs Franklin had all the time in the world to dribble up field, sending teammate Coulter to the net to make a shot, which fell wide of the net.
The Demons Josh Crozier was next in line to pressure Telluride’s defense, this time sending a perfectly on-target zinger from beyond the 18-yard line. Koenig stood his ground, making the save to maintain his team’s one-goal deficit.
The Miners turned up the intensity in the final quarter of the match, with a smooth passing sequence initiated by Ryan Parkinson and Greg Hope that set Morgan Pihl up for the shot. The sea of green Demon jerseys he found in front of the net were too much to get around, however.
Miner freshmen phenoms James and Aplin both had breakaways in the next minutes, each of which were spoiled by dogged Demon defense. Ridgway’s Skalla responded with a shot just moments after Aplin’s was scooped by Demon keeper Mangelsen. While Skalla’s shot was wide, Telluride’s next attempt, only moments later, was spot-on. Pihl’s next opportunity was denied by the Demons last line of defense, with Mangelsen making another game-saving scoop.
Miner keeper Koenig kept up with Mangelsen’s spectacular in-net displays, landing an impressive one-handed diving deflection of an equally impressive left-foot shot from Demon Ben Zaugg minutes later. It would prove to be the last scoring opportunity for either side, with the game ending soon after.
“It was a heartbreaking loss,” admitted Coach Kusuno following Telluride’s 1-0 loss to neighborhood rivals Ridgway on Tuesday night.
The Demons host two more home games this weekend; they’ll face tough-fighting Crested Butte on Friday then Bayfield on Saturday.
Upcoming games for the Miners include home games against Bayfield this Friday and against Montrose JV next Wednesday.