In order to set up a league championship showdown with Montrose, the Durango High School boys soccer team had to take care of a feisty Fruita Monument side, which beat the Demons in overtime two weeks ago.
It appeared Durango’s chance would slip, as the Demons trailed 2-1 throughout much of the match. The Demons’ dug deep to score two goals in the final 19 minutes, and went on to defeat the Wildcats 3-2 on Saturday at DHS.
Durango (10-4, 5-2 5A/4A Southwestern League) scored the equalizing goal on a corner kick, as Ryan Bell delivered in a low service into the box, and senior Andrew Saddler knocked in the cross to level the match at 2-2.
It set up a dramatic final 10 minutes, as the teams went back and forth in search of a winner. Junior right winger Moritz Rosik won it for the Demons with his second goal of the match in the 74th minute. He dribbled past three defenders, and slotted his shot into the bottom left corner of the net for the 3-2 lead. DHS was able to hang on for the final six minutes for the win.
“I thought the guys showed a ton of heart in the second half to just stick with it and play together,” said DHS head coach Aaron Champenoy. “We should have done better in the first half. We gave up a set piece goal, and the handball penalty was unlucky, but was the right call. We really dominated the second half and majority of play, and I thought (Rosik) was the difference for us.”
Fruita Monument (7-6, 3-4 SWL) answered first with a goal in the sixth minute from midfielder Hayden Milyard, which was assisted by Ricardo Vargas off of a corner kick. Just three minutes later, Rosik scored his first goal of the game for Durango, after he received a long through ball, chased it down and knocked it home to tie the match at 1-1.
The Wildcats answered back with a goal in the 21st minute after a handball was called in the box, and the referee pointed to the penalty spot. Christian Torchia calmly converted the penalty kick to make it 2-1. That was the score heading into the halftime break, and DHS senior goalkeeper Caleb McGrath knew the Demons had work to do.
“I think at half we talked about talking more and being more organized in the back,” McGrath said. “That helped clean up a lot of little slip ups that we had earlier in the first half. We knew that after a loss to (Grand Junction), this was a must-win game. It was a great comeback from the boys, and I thought we were much more steady in that second half, which allowed us to get forward and control the pace of play.”
In the second half, the Demons came close to equalizing on a number of occasions, as two shots were from over 40 yards out that hit the side netting. In the 57th minute, Sayer Frontella’s shot from 30 yards out hit the crossbar, and nobody was able to corral the rebound.
Fruita Monument head coach Ethan Johnson said that the momentum changed when Durango was able to control possession.
“Second half we didn’t possess the ball hardly at all,” Johnson said. “Not really sure where the mental breakdown was there, but we really tried to do anything to get Durango off of the ball. We put our bench out there, tried different tactics, but when it comes down to it, we couldn’t maintain possession.”
After the Demons equalized through Saddler, Durango continued to search for the winner. When Rosik scored, he was initially looking to pass, but saw a chance and took it.
“I just looked for a pass, but the goalie made a step to the middle,” Rosik said. “He thought I’d play a ball to the middle, and then it was just an easy finish. Coach said that we should take our moves and be confident. We definitely were the better team in the second half. We won almost every header, and us being aggressive was a big factor in the win.”
Late in the match, Logan Stettler received a second yellow card, and was sent off. He will have to miss Durango’s match against Montrose.
“It was the kind of mentality that we had to have to get a win,” Champenoy said. “We really showed our toughness for the first time this year. We’re going to be shorthanded without (Stettler), so someone is going to have to step up.
“The biggest thing is we’re going to have to stay composed, and not let the emotion of what that game is to take over. Let it fuel our intensity a little bit, but we have to take a deep breathe, and play the way we’re supposed to play.”
Kickoff against Montrose (8-5, 5-1 SWL) will be at 6 p.m. Friday at DHS.