Log In

Reset Password
Sports Youth Sports Professional Sports More Sports College Sports High School Sports

Unbeaten Manitou deals Bayfield first loss

Wolverines fall 5-1 at home to Mustangs
Bayfield sophomore Zach Hufnagel, center, dribbles between Manitou Springs' Gavin Kopp and Evan Yount during nonleague action Friday at BHS. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Should 2023 be a year of another lengthy postseason run for Manitou Springs Boys’ Soccer, the theme from the movie ’12 Strong’ would definitely be a proper inclusion to any end-of-year highlight montage’s soundtrack (and not simply because actor Geoff Stults, portraying one of the ‘Horse Soldiers’ in the aforementioned film, is a 1994 MSHS graduate).

After all, with a dozen seniors on the roster and eight regularly starting, the Mustangs will be formidable against any foe.

“Yeah, Manitou’s a great team. I mean, they’ve got 12 seniors and we’re essentially a bunch of sophomores – that makes it tough, you know, with the age gap,” Bayfield head coach Chris Zoltowski said, following a 5-1 loss to MSHS Friday inside weather-whipped Wolverine Country Stadium.

“Much tougher opposition,” said goalkeeper Lane Hunter, one of BHS’ 14 sophs. “A lot more shots on goal, a lot more on target; they were just breaking down our back line. It was definitely a challenge.”

“And unfortunately in the second half we got a couple injuries,” Zoltowski continued. “Just didn’t have a lot of depth to back up those injuries, and I think that cost us at the end.”

Yellow-carded in about the 59th minute, Mustang senior Evan Yount capped the guests’ road win with a penalty-kick strike in the 79th. Taking an assist from junior Alexander Steger, Yount had also netted the evening’s very first goal 13 minutes in – after the unbeaten sides waited nearly 90 lightning-delayed, rain-deluged minutes to finally kick off the high-profile showdown.

With help from teammate Julian Polanco, left, Bayfield senior Shae Railsback clears a ball away from Manitou Springs' Alexander Steger during nonleague action Friday at BHS. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Taking a free kick from 41 yards out in the 21st minute, Yount served up a ball fellow senior co-captain Gavin Smith headed perfectly past an oncoming Hunter for what could have been a crippling 2-0 advantage.

“We’ve been working on that all season, and he’s got a real knack for that,” Manitou Springs head coach Ben Mack said. “And he almost put another one in! That’s a lethal combination … because Evan can put a ball on a dime – it’s just a matter of (repeating) it enough times to know where that ball’s going to go – and then you get a hungry guy like Gavin to take advantage.”

“Me and Evan, we go out and practice (some) Saturdays and that’s just what we do,” said Smith. “We do corner kicks, set pieces – he’ll kick ’em and I’ll run in and just score ’em – and that time it all just clicked together. Just barely before the goalie got there … we tucked it right in.”

Having not surrendered a goal until Tuesday, when Colorado Springs-based 2A Thomas MacLaren School struck twice but fell 5-2 in Manitou Springs, the Mustangs gave up another when BHS senior Lance Mitchell cashed in sophomore Tauer Crotty’s 34th-minute crossing pass, tipped backward by MSHS keeper Deric French. French made nine saves.

“He’s become one of the leaders on the team, a top goal-scorer, and he just finds the net,” Zoltowski said. “Lance has grown so much; I’m so proud of him.”

Able to close out a hard-fought first half sustaining no further damage, the Wolverines kept the Mustangs at bay after intermission until junior Gavin Kopp scored in the 54th off a well-placed throw-in by senior Bowman Hall. After Yount was cautioned and pulled from play, Manitou Springs (7-0, 0-0 3A Tri-Peaks) received a most major morale boost when senior Beck Enquist, Yount’s replacement, put the guests up 4-1 in the 66th with a back-post goal, set up by Steger redirecting Smith’s off-line header of senior Graham Beckum’s free kick.

“We’re carrying a lot of players – a lot more than I typically do – and there’s only so many minutes, so not everybody gets a ton of playing time. I’ve just been proud of all my guys for understanding they all have a role – whether they get a minute, no minutes, 10 minutes here, five there – and being so positive,” explained Mack. “So it’s really nice to reward a kid who’s come off the bench, giving a few good minutes …. To see him go out there and get a goal makes me smile.”

“You know, hats off to Bayfield,” he continued. “I think they’re really a quality team, and we knew they were good; we didn’t underestimate them. If you looked at the game and … didn’t see the scoreboard, you would have thought it said a 1-1 game, a 0-0 game, a 2-2 game – I thought both teams were fairly, evenly matched. We were just able to take advantage of our chances … gutted out this win.”

And even amidst intensifying chippy-ness during the closing minutes, there was still sportsmanship shown – and best displayed in the 74th minute when Bayfield sophomore Ayden Casillas went down with what looked to be a calf cramp, and was immediately aided by MSHS’ Smith, with Wolverine sophomore Zach Hufnagel arriving seconds later to help.

As part of their return to distant El Paso County, the Mustangs were to next visit Pagosa Springs (3-3, 2-0 3A Southwestern) on Saturday, Sept. 16, for a 10:30 a.m. start, but results were unavailable at press time.

BHS was to host Pueblo-based 2A Dolores Huerta Prep at 1 p.m. that same day, but the match was canceled (a possible reschedule date is being sought). Slain 11-nil in Pueblo by Manitou Springs in the teams’ Aug. 24 season-opener, the Scorpions would have arrived standing 0-3 overall – after losing 8-0 at 3A Pueblo Central on the 14th – and on a 28-match losing streak, having not experienced victory (or even a draw) since winning 3-1 at Colorado Springs Evangelical Christian Academy late in the COVID-delayed/abbreviated Spring ’21 campaign.

That being said, the Wolverines (5-1, 2-0 SWL) will next see action Friday, Sept. 22, at PSHS.

“We’re going to try to get some rest and recover,” Zoltowski said, when asked how his squad would spend its Saturday. “And it’s nice because we can put our primary focus on Pagosa; we were able to beat Cortez and Alamosa, and now our crosshairs are on Pagosa. So I’m excited about being able to spend a whole week focusing just on them.”