Despite proximity, Montrose, Delta play in soccer for first time in 6 seasons
Montrose High School boys soccer coach Jim Pavlich had a hunch about his potential playoff pairing after the Indians’ final regular-season game, a scoreless tie against Fruita Monument. He told Wildcats coach Dan McKee after the game he thought he’d be playing Delta.
Separated by around 20 miles, but still mysterious, No. 19 Delta was matched with No. 14 Montrose for the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs at 4 p.m. today at Montrose High School.
Often rivals in other sports, the boys soccer teams from the two schools haven’t played in at least six years, but Pavlich said his squad has been battled-tested for the 4A playoffs by playing in the 5A/4A Southwestern League.
“I mean absolutely we’ll be ready for Delta,” Pavlich said. “If you look at our schedule, we’ve won some tough games. We’ve built our schedule so we play fantastic teams. It gets us ready when playoffs come around.”
The biggest question mark for Montrose is Delta freshman Abraham Ontiveros, who finished second in the 4A Western Slope League with 13 goals.
Pavlich said he watched Ontiveros play and compared him to Fruita forward Wesley Padgett and Central forward Matt Miller. They are what Pavlich calls a “number 10 striker,” meaning the offensive star of the team. In soccer, the jersey number 10 often signifies the team’s best goal scorer.
“(Ontiveros is) a typical number 10 striker,” Pavlich said. “He’s the kind of kid that likes to possess the ball and keep it. He’s a talented kid, and while you do have to realize he’s there, I don’t think we’ll do much differently against him.”
Delta coach Elaine Wood said Ontiveros is a leader for the Panthers’ offense, and he’s also an emotional leader for the team, something rare from a freshman.
“Abraham is a really great kid who works really, really hard,” Wood said. “He’s a fireball for us, and he can score when he wants to. But I’ll tell you, he’s also an excellent passer, and it’s not about him scoring goals so much as us scoring goals. It doesn’t matter to him if he’s the one doing it, just that we’re scoring.”
Wood said the leadership of Ontiveros has come in handy for a Delta soccer program that is really more of a Delta County soccer program. Players from Hotchkiss, Paonia and Cedaredge travel to play for the Panthers. The program started in Paonia in 2002, moved to Hotchkiss in 2008 and finally moved to Delta in 2013.
“I think the unique thing about this team is that you’re spending most of the year getting these kids from different schools to play together and learn how each other plays. Then, when you finally reach that point, you’re ready for playoffs,” Wood said. “And it’s kind of cool to see these kids when their schools face off in other sports, and they’re sitting together because they played together on this team.”
“We have a lot of respect for Montrose, and we don’t take their reputation for granted. Hopefully we can come out with a win, and we’d sure like to give it a whirl.”