If things hadn’t been looking up enough already for the Bayfield boys soccer team with 3A Southwestern League play imminent, Shae Railsback certainly – and somewhat comically – ensured he at least was.
Railsback put all his energy into a right-legged free kick about 45 yards in length on Tuesday, but the junior defender’s plant foot lost grip of the ground – leaving Railsback, well, on his back, scanning for shapes in a cloudy sky.
It was not the position he wanted to find himself in … to avoid being the victim of a dogpile.
Catching players by surprise, Railsback’s shot lost little speed as it elevated, gracefully arched and then descended over visiting Bloomfield, New Mexico’s stunned goalkeeper and into the net. The goal increased the Wolverines’ lead to 3-0 with 68 regulation minutes remaining in the interstate match.
And though the scoring subsided until the second half, BHS both secured another shutout and improved to a momentum-filled 3-0-1 since Sept. 13 – the last time nemesis Pagosa Springs will have seen action prior to entering Wolverine Country Stadium Friday as Bayfield’s first SWL opponent.
Kickoff against the potent Pirates – already 2-0 in league, 5-2 overall – is set for 6 p.m.
“We really have a chance to show everybody how we have improved,” Railsback said after the 5-0 blanking of the Bobcats, punctuated by Ayden Casillas’ 55th- and 69th-minute goals. Casillas, a freshman, finished with his second hat trick in two outings.
After a rare 1-1 tie Friday at nonleague 3A Manitou Springs, with Casillas scoring the equalizer, followed by a Casillas-led 9-0 drubbing of 2A Dolores Huerta Prep Saturday in Pueblo, Bayfield rose to 5-1-1 overall – after finishing 6-9-0 in 2021 – via the home win over Bloomfield (3-6-1, 0-0-0 NMAA Dist. 1-4A).
“That Dolores (Huerta) win … was more a, you know, ‘practice’ game for us. But that was probably the best we’ve ever played against Manitou; they’d lost some players and so had we, but I think we’ve definitely stepped up,” said Railsback. “It was high-intensity … going to (give) us a chance to be high up in league.”
“That’s kind of been the theme of the season, just getting momentum and keeping it going,” said senior defender Andres ‘Andy’ Monger. “For example, in the Manitou game, coach had switched … me and Lane (Hunter) – he’s our right back – and Shae told coach, ‘No, no coach. We need to switch them back; we’ve just got that chemistry.’”
“It’s not just a mutual trust between players and coaches, players and players, but … we all understand each other’s parts.”
“Yeah, I feel like the one thing the boys have learned from last season, is the difference between themselves versus their team,” head coach Chris Zoltowski said. “They’ve learned to put the team before themselves – a lot of them have grown into that – and I’m really proud of them. They’re really excited.”
Against Dolores Huerta, Railsback and senior Shaw Foster each scored twice while freshman Riley Hanson and sophomore Max Baxter each struck once.
Coming off the bench against Bloomfield, Baxter received some flak after chipping a 10-yard try over a wide-open net. With Casillas’ eighth-minute icebreaker, assisted by junior Lance Mitchell, and senior Gavin Larson’s 10th-minute follow-up, assisted by Casillas, however, the miss didn’t much matter.
Foster assisted on Casillas’ second goal and senior goalie Kaedon Rademacher kept a clean sheet.
“Simple passes, started in the back, usually set up pretty good runs up the field, as opposed to if you start off with a bad pass and it snowballs into more,” Monger said. “Just making sure we make those fundamentally-sound passes, makes sure we can do what we want to do.”
“I think we’ve really made a good statement on how much cleaner – and faster – we’ve gotten,” Railsback said. “By cleaner, I mean not as much crap talking, not as much fouling – we play more balls. And our passes, our switches … we’re just getting it (all) really well.”
After Friday’s showdown, Pagosa Springs will play at Montezuma-Cortez at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Bayfield, meanwhile, will get a brief break before hosting Alamosa at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Before they can expect to play well on the road, the Wolverines know they’ll have to perform against the Pirates, who last year swiped a 2-1 overtime win at Golden Peaks Stadium and a 3-0 verdict at WCS.
“They’re a decent team,” Monger said, “but so are we this year; I think we’re a force to be reckoned with. So we’re just going to play our game while they play theirs.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said Bayfield will play at Alamosa on Tuesday. Bayfield will in fact host Alamosa on Tuesday.