Making a statement? First win over Junction in three years puts Fruita in control of playoff destiny

Fruita Monument’s Alec Smith, 14, is congratulated Tuesday by teammate Schuyler Young, left, after scoring one of his two goals in the Wildcats’ 2-0 victory over Grand Junction at Walker Field.

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—Grand Junction High School’s Tim Hofer gains control of the ball and passes it to Sean Foster, as Fruita’s defense convergeson him during the first half of Tuesday’s 2-0 loss at Walker Field.

It’s been five years since the Fruita Monument High School boys soccer team qualified for the state playoffs.

That drought could come to an end this season.

The Wildcats took a big step toward a Class 5A state playoff berth Tuesday night with a 2-0 Southwestern League victory over rival Grand Junction at Walker Field. It was Fruita’s first victory over the Tigers in more than three years. The teams battled to a scoreless tie four weeks ago.

“We knew we had them (last time), but we couldn’t take advantage of that game,” Fruita coach Dan McKee said. “This game, we had two lucky breaks and two goals. The second half, our goal was to hold them. We got that second goal and it was icing on the cake.”

Alec Smith scored two goals on breakaways and the defense shut down the Tigers.

“It is all about intensity,” Smith said. “We have to do our best to score against Junction.

“The first game was so close, I didn’t know if we could do it. We came through better than I expected.”

The win puts Fruita Monument (5-5-1, 4-2-1 SWL) in the driver’s seat for a Class 5A state berth and in position to make a run at the league title. The Wildcats are on a three-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 14-2.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” McKee said. “We plan on winning out and being tied for the league. There’s a chance we can bring the league title to the school, which we want.”

Fruita Monument has games against Durango and Montezuma-Cortez this weekend. The Wildcats finish league play against Montrose.

It was a disappointing loss for Grand Junction (6-4-1, 3-3-1 SWL), which could still qualify for the playoffs, but as a low seed.

“If anything, it was all ego from my boys to their boys,” Grand Junction coach Stephen Latta said. “The Fruita boys knew how to get under the skin of the boys that were expected leaders from our team.

“The two goals they got were two long balls. It wasn’t even structured. That’s why I was angry with my boys. At the end it was all desperation. It was all, who’s going to be the hero. It was not teamwork.”

The Tigers came out attacking, putting a couple shots on goal, but Fruita Monument goalkeeper Tyler Kenagy was ready.

“Tyler Kenagy came up huge again tonight,” McKee said. “He had a huge save in the first couple minutes against (Tim) Hofer. It blackened his eye, I think. His nose was still bleeding at half.”

Fruita Monument mounted an attack of its own and was able to score on its first shot on goal when Smith took a pass from Nick Stubler on the left side and put the ball past Grand Junction goalkeeper Hill Bonin in the 21st minute.

The Wildcats continued to attack, peppering Grand Junction’s goal just before halftime, but Bonin was able to come up with a couple saves.

Fruita controlled play most of the second half but the Tigers hung close until the 78th minute when Smith scored on a breakaway to put the game away.

“Alec came in off the bench both times,” McKee said. “He plays with such intensity. He provided that spark we needed. Both were beautiful balls and he put them right where we needed.”


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