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Wolverine soccer makes history

Bayfield blanks Pagosa Springs, grabs league title
Bayfield's Shae Railsback (15) maneuvers the ball away from Alamosa's Juan Gonzalez-Ramirez (6) and out of danger during an earlier 3A Southwestern League game. Courtesy Joel Priest

Becoming possibly the first Bayfield boys soccer squad to qualify for back-to-back CHSAA State Tournaments, the 2023 Wolverines had zero intention of letting the 3A Southwestern League championship be decided Friday night by any sort of tiebreaker criteria.

Holding Pagosa Springs – gunning for a third straight SWL title – without a true shot attempt for more than 31 minutes of the opening 40-minute half, the Wolverines not only took a 2-0 lead into intermission but then tacked on two more goals during the penultimate 10 minutes to cap an inspired 4-0 home victory closing out regular-season action.

Bayfield improved to 9-4-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the SWL with the win. Pagosa fell to 6-7-2 and 4-1-1 in the SWL

“It was a hell of a performance, and I’m kind of surprised we actually managed to pull it off,” said senior Lance Mitchell. “It means a lot; Pagosa’s always been our main rival so I feel like that added fuel to the fire – we had to beat them, this one time!”

With each side willing to go for broke early on, Shae Railsback was yellow-carded in just the 12th minute of a then-scoreless contest. In the 19th minute, sophomore Ayden Casillas ran onto a through-ball which sophomore Wyatt Larson couldn’t have threaded any more precisely through two pursuing Pirates, and beat PSHS goalie Christopher Young-Martinez with what was already Bayfield’s sixth attempted shot.

The Wolverines earned a 23rd-minute corner kick, and sophomore Zach Hufnagel served up a gem of a set piece, bending slightly away from Young-Martinez and right at an arriving Railsback.

The two standouts met in midair, with Young-Martinez somehow able to fully extend his right arm and tip the ball over Railsback’s head. What Young-Martinez couldn’t have seen, however, was Mitchell behind Railsback. Mitchell leapt and headed in what may end up being the team’s goal of the season.

BHS then put PSHS down 3-0 in the 71st minute, when junior Max Baxter converted a close-range pass from Mitchell. Then in the 76th, sophomore Tauer Crotty converted a penalty kick after running onto a ball played into the Pirates’ 18-yard box and then being fouled.

“We were nervous, but we were totally charged up … knew we were going to win, and manifested that,” Madonna said. “It was worth working hard all season and everything. I’m so proud of all my boys; we did amazing.”

“It would mean everything just to host here, win or lose,” said Railsback. “I’d love to have the team here again on our home ‘turf’ in the playoffs, with everyone – our crowd, our families, our friends – all watching us.”