Steamboat Springs boys soccer team falls in overtime but keeps loss in perspective
Steamboat Springs — The day after losing one of the toughest games of the season, and a day after getting knocked out of the state playoffs in the opening round, members of the Steamboat Springs High School boys soccer team proved that despite the final score of the game, they were still winners.
The players and coaches kept away from words like disappointed. They chose not to focus on a referee’s second-half call that resulted in the team playing the final 52 minutes down a man, and instead, elected to reflect on a game, and a season, they will not soon forget.
“This was one of my favorite games … it might just be my favorite game ever,” senior Alex Coffey said the day following the No. 25 Sailors’ loss to No. 8 Silver Creek Raptors.
The victory means that Silver Creek will go on to face Battle Mountain in the next round, and Steamboat can look back on a season where the team finished in second place in the Western Slope Division behind top-ranked Battle Mountain. The Sailors finished with an 11-6 overall record and came within a finger tip or two of upsetting one of the state’s top teams in a thrilling shootout in the playoffs.
Steamboat and Silver Creek were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation play and then remained tied through two 15-minute, sudden-death overtime periods. In the final tie-breaking penalty kick shootout, Silver Creek escaped with a 5-4 win. Cruz Archuleta’s shot was on frame but was deflected away after the diving Silver Creek goalkeeper Aidan Lantaff got his fingertips on the ball.
It was an end to a game that saw Steamboat come from behind, twice. The first time after Silver Creek scored in the opening minutes of the game.
“Our first 20 minutes were not good,” Sailor coach Rob Bohlmann said. “The game was very physical, but midway through the first half, we started to pull it together.”
Steamboat was able to tie the game roughly 20 minutes into the contest after Ross VanHara was awarded a penalty kick.
Silver Creek then regained the lead about 60 minutes into the game, but the Sailors evened things up on another penalty kick opportunity. Steamboat’s Will McConnell was pulled down in the box, and his teammate Will Beurskens beat the keeper to make the score 2-2.
One of the biggest moments of the game came when Steamboat’s Quinn Connell was given his second yellow card of the game for not giving a full 10 yards on a Silver Creek free kick. Two yellow cards result in a red card, and Connell had to leave the game and the Sailors finished out the game a player down.
A tough call for sure, but Bohlmann and the Sailors didn’t get upset about the decision, but instead, shifted the team’s formation a bit keeping two attackers up front instead of the normal three.
“Anytime you lose it’s hard,” Coffey said. “This one was extra emotionally tough. For 120 minutes we felt like we had it, but then one great save by the goalie — and it was a great save — and our year is over.”
Coffey admits in the minutes after the game’s conclusion there may have been a feeling of disappointment but it did not last.
“We all came together and decided to look back on what we have accomplished this season and how great it was,” Coffey said. “We talked about all the challenges that we overcame. This journey didn’t make us one team, it made us one family.”
Coffey’s teammate and fellow senior Andrew McCawley spent the final minutes of his last high school game in the net with the spotlight on him.
“The pressure is really on the shooter,” McCawley said. “It’s different for the goalie because the shooter is supposed to score. Everyone is watching to see if the shooter is going to make a mistake.”
McCawley said he will take a lot of memories away from this season including an overtime win in driving rain at Gardner Field against Eagle Valley and also the final shootout loss to Silver Creek.
But what he’ll most most is preparing for games with his teammates and hanging out at team functions. For McCawley, this year has been about lifelong friendships and the feeling of family that ran through this team from the seniors who started most games to the team manager, Ben James, who was on the sideline for every game.
James, a sophomore, is Archuleta’s stepbrother and has been a vital part of the team the past couple of seasons. James has been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic condition that limits his ability to interact socially and physically.
“I really liked the relationship the whole team had with Ben,” McCawley said. “We all had a very special connection to him … he taught us so much about life and about people with disabilities. I’m going to miss the relationships, like the one we had with Ben, the most.”
Bohlmann has seen a lot of teams come and go during his 26-year career in Steamboat Springs, and there is no question this year’s team was special for a number of reasons.
“They really were not disappointed after the game,” Bohlmann said. “I think they know that they left it all out there on the field. They know that they did everything they could within that game, including playing 52 minutes down a man … there were no tears of disappointment. They measured themselves with this game, and they should be proud.”
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