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Far-off kickoffs welcoming Wolverines into ’22

BHS Boys’ Soccer traveling to Windsor, Severance
Bayfield now-senior Andres Monger, left, clears the ball away from Bloomfield, New Mexico's Andrew Himes during action inside Wolverine Country Stadium last fall. Monger was one of BHS' top defenders last season, and will be again in 2022. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Having seen his Lady Wolverines revive and vie for a postseason berth this spring after a late-season trip to the northern Front Range, Bayfield Soccer head coach Chris Zoltowski figures a similar journey could be just what the BHS boys need to begin – or resume, really – their pursuit of a 3A Southwestern League title in 2022.

Finishing second in the SWL last fall behind only archrival Pagosa Springs, Bayfield (6-9, 4-2 SWL in ’21) will kick off an eagerly-anticipated campaign Friday on the road at Windsor Charter Academy – now a full-fledged CHSAA member – then motor even closer to Wyoming the next morning to square off against Severance.

As a bonus, the squad will then interrupt its trek home to attend the Colorado Rapids-vs-Houston Dynamo Major League Soccer match at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

“Unfortunately for the girls, weather doesn’t allow us to go at the beginning of their season,” Zoltowski said via phone Tuesday night. “But when (players) get together and they get to watch a pro game, experience that, it just lights a fire in them. That’s what this ‘Denver’ trip is all about, and we’re very fortunate to be able to have that for our first two boys’ games.”

Bayfield now-senior Gavin Larson, left, hops over Kirtland, N.M., Central's Kyler Joe in pursuit of the ball last fall. Larson is one of BHS' most seasoned players heading into the 2022 campaign. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Kickoff against WCA’s Firebirds, now part of the 2A Mile High-West after playing as an independent in 2021, is set for 4 p.m. JV play against 3A Severance will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, with varsity action to follow.

Despite ending up just 4-10 overall (2-7 in the 4A/3A Longs Peak) last year, the SHS Silver Knights did win three of their last four matches, including a season-sealing 1-0 home win over 3A Patriot Leaguers Sterling. Also able to show their mettle on the road, Severance pushed LPL champion Fort Morgan in a 2-0 loss at FMHS, and battled co-champ Greeley Northridge (which had played the Mustangs to a scoreless tie) hard at NHS despite losing by a same score.

Bayfield will then take a break from action until Sept. 6, when the team hosts 4A Kirtland, N.M., Central at 4 p.m. 4A Aztec, N.M., then visits Wolverine Country Stadium a week later, before the Wolverines again hit the road to meet nonleague 3A Manitou Springs on Sept. 16. BHS will overnight out east to then duel 2A Dolores Huerta Prep at 11 a.m. the next morning in Pueblo.

Despite all the early season travel and accompanying fatigue, Zoltowski – again to be aided on staff by Zac Keeler and ever-energetic volunteer Jesse Larson, plus newcomer Kim Zetterberg – hinted proudly that the team should have legs aplenty.

“This will be the first time in … I guess as long as I’ve been coaching, that we’ll have a full JV squad as well as a full varsity,” he said. “We have 24 boys this year, 11 are freshmen, and three of the freshmen will be starting varsity players – just wait until you see these kids.”

Now-seniors Shaw Foster (First Team All-SWL last season), Andres ‘Andy’ Monger (honorable mention), Gavin Larson (honorable mention) and Zander Berriman will be counted upon to provide all-around leadership, with juniors Shae Railsback and Lance Mitchell also back in the fold along with classmates Asher Madonna and Brandon Wursten.

Having lost two-way threats Tristan French and Caleb Donelan (SWL honorable mention) to graduation, plus foreign-exchange talent Guillem ‘Willy’ Roca (first team SWL), many of the aforementioned players will have to pick up the scoring load, but Zoltowski mentioned another name in freshman prospect Ayden Casillas.

“He’s from Phoenix but I think he moved here in, like, fourth grade,” Zoltowski said. “He’s played (club) for Rio Rapids, you know, all the way up. And a lot of kids that play for Rapids, they want to go to Durango, but he’s stayed in Bayfield and he’s going to reap the benefits.”

One-year goalkeeper Gavin Davis was also lost to graduation, leaving another major vacancy to fill. Again, Zoltowski indicated he has more than a few options from which to choose, starting with newcomer Kaedon Rademacher.

“He actually moved here last year but he didn’t want to play because … being the ‘new kid’ and all, but he’s really good. Came from Grand Junction, played a little club there, so it’s nice to have senior leadership between the sticks,” Zoltowski said.

“But we also have a freshman, Lane Hunter, who will be our JV keeper, and then we have (freshman) Caden Ross who’s stepping up now and wants to try it. So with keepers, we’re going to be solid this year.”

“Keeper, the back line, our mids …. It’s like the soccer gods are smiling upon me!” quipped the 3A Southwestern’s 2021 Coach of the Year. “We have a great team; it’s just a matter of can we get them together, get the chemistry they need to succeed? That’s something we’ve been working on all preseason and we’re hoping it pays off Friday.”

Bayfield now-senior Shaw Foster, left, clashes with Kirtland, N.M., Central's Noah Warner last fall. A breakout performer last year in his first season at BHS, Foster will again be relied upon to lead in 2022. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)