‘Trial by fire’ works for Grand Junction’s Ealey in win over Cortez

Caleb Ealey is used to wearing light blue socks. As the starting goalkeeper for Grand Junction High School, the contrasting color is appropriate attire.

But in the second half of Junction’s 4-0 win Saturday against Montezuma-Cortez, Ealey’s socks suddenly seemed out of place when he changed into an orange jersey and took the field as a forward.

“I was getting too bored back there (in goal),” Ealey said. “My defense just saved my butt all day long, so I figured I’d score a goal if I could.”

Ealey logged a single shot to end the game, although he had several chances to score off corner kicks, a performance that wasn’t bad considering prior to the game, Ealey hadn’t played a position on the pitch besides goalie since he was 10.

“It was trial by fire,” he said. “I’ve always kind of wanted to play. I like scoring goals. I mean, who doesn’t? It’s just nice to be on the other side.”

Grand Junction coach Stephen Latta said the idea was Ealey’s, but ultimately left the choice to assistant coach Todd Bondurant, who is in charge of the Tigers’ goalkeepers.

“My only concern was the risk of injury,” Latta said. “As long as those two (Ealey and Bondurant) came to an agreement and they were confident on that, I fully supported it.”

Grand Junction’s defense posted its second shutout in two days, allowing only four shots.

The strength, Latta said, lies in the Tigers’ structure.

“They don’t play as individuals at all,” he said. “They know that they need to stay linked up and they didn’t go away from the basic structure in the second half.”

Latta said although his back four defenders held their own, they got plenty of support from the midfielders and forwards.

“Center-midfielders are good at providing that initial defense so that the back four, all they have to really do is recuperate after a bad pass or if the ball gets away from anybody,” he said.

The Tigers’ past two games were largely won by goals from Tim Hofer and Brendan Ryan, but Saturday, some different faces capitalized on scoring opportunities. Junior midfielder Luke Olsen got the game started, scoring a goal 20 seconds after kickoff on a pass from Sebastian Henn.

Seventeen minutes later, Henn came through with his own goal off an assist by Ryan. Two minutes after that, Bryan Waite made a penalty kick to give Grand Junction a 3-0 lead. Sean Berkson scored 10 minutes into the second half for the Tigers’ final goal.


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