Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file photo
Shaun Stanley/Durango Herald file photo
Just like their mascot, Sand Creek will come at the Demons with two nasty pincers and a deadly stinging tail.
So when the Durango High School boys soccer team travels today to Colorado Springs for its first-round game Thursday in the CHSAA Class 4A Boys Soccer State Championships, the Demons will have to channel their inner meerkat, using reflexive defense to neutralize the stinger while taking advantage of the Scorpions’ overconfidence.
Then they plan to chow down.
Durango can’t get no respect in the state rankings – at least not enough of it when it comes to playoff seeding, DHS head coach Kenny Wood said.
And if anything, that’s a plus for 25th-seeded Demons when they’ll go up against the offensively venomous No. 8 Sand Creek.
“People don’t give us a lot of credit,” Wood said. “That’s the best part about being a 25-seed; hopefully they come in thinking we’re a 25-seed because we’re not.”
Not that anything’s going to be easy for the 9-3-3 Demons. The Scorpions finished their season 11-4 overall and 5-2 in the Pikes Peak League, which Durango captain Ian Bowers thinks is the toughest league in Class 4A soccer.
To add to that, the Demons don’t get many opportunities to check out Front Range competition, so they’re going in blind, more or less.
“Geographically, we don’t get to play anybody everyone else gets to see,” Wood said.
But in their 14th consecutive trip to the playoffs after a regular season full of road trips, where others might be intimated, the Demons only salivate at the opportunity.
“It may actually be an advantage when you play someone you don’t know,” said Bowers, son of Steve Bowers and Wendy Grant.
“There’s no danger you’re going to make assumptions that are incorrect.”
One assumption the Demons won’t have to make is their need to shut down Donald Tafoya – the Scorpions’ deadly, stinging tail.
Tafoya, a midfielder, has scored 21 of Sand Creek’s 65 regular-season goals.
“It’s going to be tough to contain their best player, but it’s going to be our job,” Wood said.
Backing up Tafoya, Josh Smith has 13 goals and Justin Gilvar 11, playing the role of the pincers up front.
“If the boys get ready to play, we should have a good showing; if we don’t, we’re in trouble because teams like this can punish you,” Wood said with a nod to Sand Creek’s “very quick ... crafty” players.
“Clearly they can score,” he said.
Facing that type of deadly animal, Wood said an organized, reflexive defense will be key to preventing 1-v-1 situations that Sand Creek will try to create by launching a speedy attack through the Demons’ back line.
That means the defense will have to remain organized and work as a unit, communicating across the pitch to keep its guard up lest Durango ends up “at the mercy” of that Sand Creek poison.
“We’re definitely looking to shut down their dangerous players,” Bowers said. “We’re certainly not going to let one player beat us.”
If the Demons can dodge the Sand Creek offense, they’ll need to strike back – and they’ve got some teeth of their own.
Junior forward Cameron Treharne leads the team with nine goals, followed by junior forward Nick Aggeler with seven. The rest of the team’s 48 goals were spread out Demon-wide.
The Scorpions’ striking capabilities don’t “really mean anything to us because we can, too,” Wood said.
But where Sand Creek makes use of individual skill to pick apart opposing defenses, the Demons’ offense will need to spread the pitch and press its attack in droves to find the net.
“We probably don’t have the firepower individually to compete,” Bowers said. “But together, we’re able to absolutely.”
The two teams only common opponent this year was Montrose – seeded 13th in the tournament – which split its two contests with Durango and fell to Sand Creek 2-1 in September.
Montrose coach James Pavlich told Wood the Demons can match up well against the Scorpions and take advantage of the Scorpions’ looser, softer defensive underbelly.
“If we can put a couple away and then lock it down in the back, we should be fine,” said Seumus McAliney, son of Mike and Renee McAliney and a DHS co-captain alongside Bowers.
The winner will advance to Saturday’s second round.