The Bayfield High School boys soccer team’s style of play sported some long, knotty hair, an unkempt beard and a pair of bleary eyes to start Tuesday’s match.
The Wolverines staggered through one half as they struggled to tap into their energy reserves, failed to capitalize on chances in the second half, and the Alamosa Mean Moose beat the Bayfield boys soccer side 1-0 at Wolverine Country Stadium.
“We basically needed to shave our game,” said BHS senior Myles Popke, son of Brian and Christine Popke.
“We needed to speed it up ... and clean it up.”
Although the one-goal loss was a drastic scoreboard improvement over the Wolverines’ 5-0 loss to the Mean Moose in early September, Tuesday’s near stalemate certainly was a winnable contest for the Bayfield side, which battled against lethargic play in the first half culminating in Alamosa’s lone goal in first-half stoppage time.
“We just lost a little bit of our fire,” BHS head coach Terry Spriggs said. “The quickness, the crispness we usually have, it just wasn’t there.”
That sluggishness cost them in the second minute of extra time, when a long lob pass over the Bayfield defense caught sweeper Keith Wickman off guard. As he headed for the ball, Alamosa’s Pedro Juarez broke from midfield, out-sprinted Wickman to the ball, then beat charging keeper James Young with a slick, low shot into the left corner.
“Didn’t know he was behind me and just got by me,” said Wickman, son of Barbara and John Wickman.
It was a lone breakdown for the otherwise stellar BHS defense, which for both halves greatly limited the number of open looks the Moose got on goal.
Wickman in particular was key in eliminating a number of potential quality scoring chances, using his unmatched bursts of speed to track down Alamosa’s counterattacks and clear the ball out of danger.
Young stopped the rest. He saved five of six shots on goal, including an arching shot in the 25th minute of the first half that would’ve dropped just under the crossbar and into the goal if not for his vertical jump and outstretched fingers.
“We’ve been very good defense-wise,” Spriggs said. “They really didn’t get too many good looks on the net.”
None in the second half, in fact, when the Mean Moose seemed to fall ill with the same energy poison that afflicted Bayfield through the first half.
“Maybe it was contagious,” Spriggs said.
Although the Wolverines’ two second-half shots on goal totaled two less than their first-half effort, the Bayfield attack took control of the possession game, keeping the ball in Alamosa’s defending third for the majority of the final 40 minutes.
Just four minutes in, the Wolverines’ attack launched three shots at the goal – two of them deflected off defenders before Devin Wilson fired a shot from about 15 meters that Alamosa keeper Abelardo Lucas pounced on just before it found net.
BHS had another quality attempt in the 21st minute, when a free kick launched into the front of the net missed a bevy of Wolverines’ header attempts.
Those chances happened because of better passing, Wickman said, which the team has been working at in recent weeks and has improved “by a lot.”
“In the second half, we started finding something ... but we just couldn’t finish,” Spriggs said.
With BHS (1-7-2, 1-6 Intermountain League) still searching for its second win of the season, Spriggs said the team will need to get over that energy hump with just five games left in the season.
BHS next plays Crested Butte, which beat the Wolverines 5-0 earlier in the season, at 1 p.m. Saturday in Crested Butte.