Hotchkiss boys soccer team show they have merit
HOTCHKISS — Somewhere along the line, the Hotchkiss High School boys soccer team didn’t get the memo.
A team seeded eighth in the Class 3A state playoffs, making its first tournament appearance in six years, isn’t supposed to defeat the state’s first- and fourth-seeded teams. It isn’t supposed to make it to the state championship game, let alone do so in convincing fashion.
The Bulldogs (15-0-4), having not advanced past the first round in their only other state playoff appearance in 2002, break new ground tonight.
They’ll be playing Colorado Academy at 7 p.m. at North Area Athletic Complex in Golden in the 3A state championship game.
If Hotchkiss has borrowed a theme from nearly 30 years ago, it’s worked.
Taking a page from the World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979, the Bulldogs have drawn from the infamous Sister Sledge song.
“Our theme this year is We Are Family,” senior goalkeeper Evan Hansen said.
That’s more of a challenge than faces most other teams.
Although not a unified team, Hotchkiss draws players from the four Delta County high schools. The success of the team this season is based on their putting aside their respective school allegiances and playing as one unit.
Head coach Elaine Wood has been with the program throughout its seven-year history (it was based in Paonia for the first six seasons). She was an assistant coach for the first three and has served the past four seasons as its head coach.
“We average about seven kids per school,” she said. “If we didn’t do it this way, we wouldn’t play soccer here.
“What you see are friendships that last forever,” Wood said of the bonds than have been formed.
“I think the big thing was coming together and being a family,” senior center midfielder Kasey Sidor said.
“In past years we hadn’t played as a team,” senior midfielder Alex Quinonez said.
After going 4-9-2 last season, “We knew we had to play as a team to be able to accomplish this,” Quinonez said.
The players point to an old nemesis, Basalt, as providing a turning point this season. Trailing 2-0 in the Sept. 27 game at home, the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game.
“We picked it up a little after that,” Sidor said.
Hotchkiss has won nine consecutive games since that tie, including four in the playoffs to earn the berth in tonight’s championship game.
That included a 4-0 victory over Middle Park, a 3-0 victory over Faith Christian and a 3-0 shutout of top-ranked Colorado Springs Christian.
“We went in with nothing to lose,” Sidor said of the victory over C.S. Christian last Thursday. “I think we kind of surprised them with our aggression.”
Hotchkiss has given up just one goal in its last five games, that to fourth-seeded Fountain Valley in Saturday’s 3-1 semifinal victory.
“I think I’ve got one of the best defenses in the state,” said Hansen, who missed last season while being an exchange student in France.
Hansen said the team’s adrenaline level shouldn’t be too hyped prior to kickoff tonight.
“Right now it’s just another game,” he said.
Albeit one with a gold-ball trophy on the line.
“It comes down to who wants it more,” Quinonez said.