Late penalty kick helps Central tie Fruita
A late whistle. A contested penalty kick is awarded. Central High School’s Matt Miller buries it in the top-right corner.
It was an almost picture-perfect replay of the first matchup between Fruita Monument and Central, which ended 2-1 in Fruita’s favor. But this time the Warriors squeezed out a 1-1 draw Thursday at Long Family Park.
During their first meeting between these two teams, the Warriors were awarded a penalty during the waning minutes of the match. Four yellow cards were passed out to Fruita players and coaches. Incensed Wildcats coach Dan McKee called it “one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen.”
This time around, no cards were handed out, but McKee joked with Central coach Doug Beach that “we’re not making any friends tonight,” referring to the referees.
In stoppage time Thursday, Central striker Jacob Sabesta and Fruita defender Cory Odom collided in the penalty box while competing for a header. Central was awarded a penalty shot.
Miller slotted the ball in the top-right corner, almost identical to his penalty-shot goal in the first matchup.
“Just wanted to score it to keep the team in the game,” Miller said. “Coach (Beach) gave us a pretty good chewing at halftime. That sent us out fired up in the second half.”
The Warriors narrowly missed tying the game during regulation, hitting the frame of the goal twice with shots in the second half. Central finished with four shots on net, eight shots total, and eight corner kicks during the second half.
The Warriors also played spoiler again, changing the dynamic of the regular-season-ending match between Fruita and Montrose. Central forced a draw with Montrose earlier this season, marking the only league game the Indians didn’t win. Fruita now has to win out, including its game against Montrose in order to force a tiebreaker for the league championship.
“It didn’t quite happen for us tonight,” McKee said. “We had a lot of chances, especially in the overtime. Our boys don’t back down, but you can’t take anything away from Central. They came out aggressive in the second half.”
Montrose head coach Jim Pavlich knows in the Southwestern League you can’t look too far ahead. That means talk of a showdown with Fruita for the league title Oct. 16 is premature because his team has three league games in between.
“For me this year, every game is a big game. We came up here to play Junction (recently), and they played us tough,” Pavlich said.
“I noticed Fruita’s win (5-0 over Grand Junction) this week, and I’m looking forward to playing (Fruita).”
McKee said his team already is preparing for its finale against Montrose.
“Teaching our guys some patience will be important, or (Montrose) will kill us with that through ball every time. They’re quick, and they’re always playing at a diagonal. We need to stay in position,” McKee said. “Hopefully we can go in with a tiebreak opportunity, like where we are now.”