Wildcats win crosstown battle with Tigers, 5-0

Marcel Mavangulu of Grand JUnction heads ball as Fruita’s Noah Nelson watches.

They shook off the rough start. Now, the Fruita Monument High School boys soccer team is on a hot streak.

The Wildcats rolled to a 5-0 Southwestern League victory over Grand Junction on Monday night at Walker Field. Fruita Monument has won four consecutive games and six of its past seven.

“We’re playing good soccer,” Fruita Monument coach Dan McKee said. “We finally put it together as a team. I can’t say enough about our defense and Connor (Gaty) in net. The offense is clicking; everything is clicking. I knew it was going to happen, but I didn’t know when. I can see it happening in practice. Now we’re scoring in bunches.”

The Wildcats have scored 21 goals in three games. Wesley Padgett has scored six of them, including two against Grand Junction.

Fruita Monument (6-5, 5-1 SWL) took 30 shots, including 21 on goal. Grand Junction (2-7-1, 1-4-1) had two shots and one on goal.

The offense is clicking so much, defender Lukas Smith scored two goals. Smith gave Fruita a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute on a header off a corner kick from Kyle Breeden. Smith scored again in the 57th minute on a rebound off a free kick by Noah Nelson.

“I just finished it,” he said. “The real heroes are the guys that put it in the box. Kyle’s placement was amazing on that corner. Noah powered that ball so it bounced off the keeper’s hands, that allowed me to get in there for the finishing touch. It was great teamwork.”

Smith said the team worked a couple of nights in a row on corner kicks, and it paid off.

“We’ve been going at it in practice trying to get it down,” Smith said. “We’re usually not very good at those set pieces, but this year we’re getting better at them. Proof with that header goal right there. Our kickers for those corners are really talented for those placements and getting the ball right where it needs to be.”

Fruita controlled play from the start and never let up, but Grand Junction hung in there behind sophomore goalkeeper Michael Hansen, who made 16 saves on the night, including four on breakaways in the first half.

In the final two minutes of the first half, Fruita found the net again when forward Devin Bird netted a rebound shot off the post by Nelson.

“Coaches always tells us to follow the ball,” Bird said. “I forgot at first, but then I remembered you’ve got to follow every shot. That opportunity came to me, and I took it.”

Less than a minute later, Bird sent a cross to Padgett on the left side, and he tapped the ball into the open net for a 3-0 halftime lead.

“I got a nice through ball and took it down the line,” Bird said. “Wesley was on the other side and not covered. It was a nice cross just outside the reach of the keeper. We’ve always been taught to look for the other guy.”

Padgett netted the final goal with two minutes left.

“Four more games and hopefully we can get the (SWL) title back in the Grand Valley,” McKee said. “If we keep winning, we win the title.”


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