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Wolverine soccer overcomes Aztec away, 6-nil

Red-hot Bayfield awaits M-CHS’ arrival on Tuesday
Bayfield's Ayden Casillas readies a close-range shot versus Aztec during interstate action on Thursday at the Tiger Sports Complex in New Mexico. The Wolverines won 6-0, with Casillas netting three goals, to improve to 3-0 overall. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

SAN JUAN COUNTY, N. M. – Getting his goals-to-matches-played ratio back up to where he’d like it, sophomore Ayden Casillas netted one goal on Thursday for each victory to date in one of the best-ever starts to a Wolverine Soccer season.

Getting the scoring in Bayfield’s match at Aztec underway with a fifth-minute shot which seemingly pulled the diving goalkeeper with it along the semi-wet grass and into AHS’ net, then restarting the visitors’ onslaught after intermission with a 41st-minute finish mere moments after BHS took the kickoff, Casillas completed his hat trick in the 56th off the sort of bang-bang-bang play head coach Chris Zoltowski had at times been clamoring for during a 6-0 conquest.

“Like I told the boys, once we get into the attacking third we get a little panicky,” he said. “And yeah, it definitely took a little patience, a little time on the field to get comfortable. Because when we start playing tough teams, the finishes … every one counts! You have to … take advantage of every opportunity.”

After a brief pump-up chat with senior defender Shae Railsback, sophomore defender Cade Crotty came into possession of the ball, dribbled a ways up the far sideline of Tiger Sports Complex’s East Field and lofted a pass ahead, which senior Asher Madonna received in stride. Wasting as little remaining energy as possible, Madonna practically one-touched a crossing pass directly to Casillas, who then had the home side’s goalie at his mercy.

Bayfield's Max Baxter twists away from an Aztec player and retains possession during interstate action Thursday at the Tiger Sports Complex. The Wolverines won 6-0 on the road, improving to 3-0 in the 2023 season. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“I saw that ball coming and saw the perfect time to (pass),” Crotty said. “I knew I could trust them to put it in the goal.”

“Yeah, that was really good,” Casillas said, of the squad’s sixth and final goal, ultimately capping Bayfield’s second shutout and third consecutive win to begin 2023. “Our buildup from out of the back’s pretty good, we know where our potential’s at, where our skill level and chemistry’s at, so I think we can pull off a lot … more put-together plays.”

“It was amazing getting to see our team work that fluidly,” said sophomore goalie Lane Hunter, credited with nine saves in keeping a clean sheet.

Madonna scored goals in the 12th and 25th minutes, with Casillas assisting on both, and senior Lance Mitchell struck in the 21st when he netted a deflected Madonna crossing pass through traffic which may or may not have been meant for him. Hunter then denied Aztec a free-kick chance in the 31st and a well-placed header in the 32nd off a corner kick.

Leading 4-0 and overwhelmingly outshooting the Tigers, Bayfield (3-0, 1-0 3A Southwestern) nearly reached the half-dozen mark before the break, but sophomore Orion ‘O.B.’ Botsford’s successful 34th-minute follow of a Madonna shot off the post was disallowed due to a foul. Madonna then had a goal off a corner through traffic disallowed in the 38th.

After receiving a great cross from Mitchell, Casillas had a goal disallowed in the 49th due to an offsides violation. It would have been quite the reward for Hunter, who’d stoically caught and held a Tiger’s gut-high, midrange rocket in the 48th.

“I wanted to be the keeper last year but we had a senior, Kaedon (Rademacher), and he did amazing,” Hunter said. “This year he’s graduated and I was just the next one up. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m really happy about the position.”

Bayfield will next see action at 5 p.m. Tuesday at home versus SWL foe Montezuma-Cortez (1-0-1, 0-0-0 SWL).

“They’re coming here for a league game. Our crowd’s going to show up, and we’re going to show up,” said Hunter. “It should put the other team on edge because … we’re ready for it.”

“We’re getting more comfortable with each other and … we’re going to be a lot more together,” Casillas said. “We’re really relaxing, and when we’re relaxed I think we play really well.”

“Can’t wait for it,” said Crotty. “We’re just getting really good, we’re talking, our passes are just on point – I’m excited.”

“Our buildup’s good, I think our possession’s good,” said Zoltowski. “One thing we’ve got to work on is our finishing; at this level, it’s not going to win games when we start playing teams like Rifle and Manitou Springs. We need to up our game and play full-speed every game.”

Bayfield's Shae Railsback tries dispossessing an Aztec player during interstate action Thursday at the Tiger Sports Complex. The Wolverines won 6-0. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)