Even a man up, the Demons only could get a goal up.
The Durango High School boys soccer team played about 55 minutes of soccer against a Grand Junction Central squad missing a player because of an early red card, but the Demons still only found the goal once on Mason Johnston’s first-half penalty kick as they struggled to maintain offensive energy on homecoming weekend.
The single goal was enough, though, and Durango won 1-0 on Friday evening at the Riverview Sports Complex.
“Got lucky with the PK, but I think we worked for it,” Johnston said.
“Then we kind of died down.”
The Warriors were hit with a red card about 24 minutes into the first half for a flagrant midfield tackle after about 10 minutes of chippy play that already had earned the squad a yellow.
Ten minutes later, Central was called for a push resulting in a penalty kick when the Demons’ Ian Bowers was shoved down on a contested header in the box.
Johnston took the kick and buried it in the top of the net over the head of Central keeper Antonio Tarin.
“I was lucky (Bowers) let me take it,” said Johnston, son of Rob and Sue Johnston. “I try to focus, get my heart rate down, and put it in the net.”
But after two quick Durango shots to start out the first minute of the second half, the Demons started to lag like a team with a larger-than-one-goal lead.
Despite tallying five shots on goal in the second half – 11 total in the game – the Demons’ attack disappeared for long stretches to close out play.
“Started our season pretty hot,” DHS head coach Kenny Wood said of his now 5-1-3 team (2-1-1 Southwestern League). “I think we’ve gotten away from our biggest strength: our speed.”
Although the Demons did make use of that speed frequently to push possession into the Warriors’ half of the pitch, they didn’t make their runs count, failing to hit good passes.
They also had a handful of chances across both halves to put a foot or head on pretty crosses or corner kicks across the goal mouth but didn’t put any action on the ball, as some attackers watched it sail by instead.
The Demons also had a few lone looks from farther out, but none of them put too much stress on the speedy Tarin, whose leaping saves kept shots out of the net, even if one of them did take him crashing into the post in the second half.
The Demons mid and backfield held Durango’s water instead, dominating possession for most of the match, even if it didn’t translate to goals.
“Everything else we did good,” fullback Memo Razo said of his team’s play beyond the anemic second-half offense.
“In our defensive third and our middle third, we were fantastic,” Wood said.
Razo provided the energy shot for the Demons’ defense, stringing together hard tackles all over the pitch as he led the defensive effort.
“That’s the kind of soccer I like to see,” Wood said.
When Razo left the game midway through the second half, Durango’s energy level noticeably dropped in all sectors of the field.
Razo said he won’t play today either, when the Demons host SWL foe Fruita Monument at 11 a.m. at Riverview Sports Complex.
But if the Demons’ attack struggled to string together offensive touches, the Warriors struggled worse.
Their best chance came about 15 minutes into the first half, when Alain Bucio-Barrios broke through the Demons’ defense.
Instead of charging the oncoming attacker, Durango keeper Ben Marvin-Vanderyn hesitated and wound up in perfect position to get a hand on Bucio-Barrio’s chip shot.
Good positioning throughout – including on a second-half, goal-front pinball situation that provided the Warriors’ next-best scoring opportunity – gave Marvin-Vanderyn the shutout with seven saves.
“We did good, but we stood back a little bit,” said Razo, son of Elvia Garcia and Eufemio Razo. “We should’ve finished them 5-0.”