Improved passing helps Tigers rout ’Dogs

Erick Villalobos, right, of Grand Junction picks an unorthodox method of passing the ball to the chagrin of a Moffat County defender during Thursday’s game at Canyon View Park. Villalobos had at least one goal during the game.

Grand Junction High School’s Aaron Nall, left, heads the ball into the goal past the Moffat County keeper during the second half of Thursday’s game at Canyon View Park.

The smooth and precise passing game of the Grand Junction High School boys soccer team Thursday propelled the Tigers past Moffat County 7-1 at Canyon View Park.

The Tigers marched up and down the field with what head coach Hal Templeton called crisp passing and quality two-touch possession, confusing the younger Bulldogs, who only played two seniors. The Tigers (5-6, 4-4 Southwestern League) were constantly applying pressure through both halves, but
Templeton said he noticed the team was much more fluid in the second half.

“We were dribbling too much and we weren’t connecting our passes,” Templeton said about the first half. Templeton added that the connecting and small ball in the second half was much improved, even though the Tigers scored one fewer goal.

Eight minutes into the game, the Tigers took the lead when sophomore Sean Foster’s free kick sailed over a wall of defenders and slipped through the Bulldogs goalkeepers’ hands. Sophomore Erick Villalobos and senior Raffi Coté tacked on the Tigers’ second and third goals on similar plays. Each player picked up a loose ball just outside the penalty box and slashed through the Bulldogs’ defense, burying the ball in the back of the net.

By halftime, both teams had added one goal, giving the Tigers a comfortable 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs changed goalkeepers in the second half, hoping for a change of pace, but found the same results.

Wasting little time, Tigers freshman Aaron Nall scored twice in the first 10 minutes to put the game out of reach. The young forward’s scoring spree showed why he’s made Templeton’s varsity team.

“He’s developing in the program and coming along,” Templeton said. “He’s a great target player and unselfish.”

Senior Josh Sanchez scored the final goal in the 68th minute on a breakaway when he received a pass from junior Brendan Ryan.

Tigers goalkeeper Caleb Ealey saved all four shots he faced and did not allow a goal. The Bulldogs’ only goal came when Ealey was given a yellow card on a breakaway by Moffat County forward Tracy Mendoza. Both players charged forward for a ball that was several yards ahead of Mendoza. Ealey dove at Mendoza and took out his legs in a physical play to earn his card. By rule, Ealey was forced to sit out the next play, which was the ensuing penalty kick. Ealey watched from the sideline as his clean sheet was taken away, and Mendoza’s goal slipped through the hands of a Tiger defenseman plugged into goal for one play.

Moffat County coach Rusty Cox was disappointed with his team’s play, saying the team started playing flat in warm-ups and continued during the game. Regardless of how flat the team came out, the Tigers’ offense was fluid Thursday, and it looked as though no amount of effort from the Bulldogs would have been able to stop it.

The Tigers have reached a pivotal point of the schedule. They have back-to-back SWL games against the Central and Fruita. Templeton said he thinks the Tigers will need to win both to make the postseason.


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