Panthers drop nail-biter to Durango
M-CHS defense strong in close 1-0 loss
At the start of the 2013 soccer season, Montezuma-Cortez Panthers first-year head coach Sean Fitzgerald emphasized the importance of strong defense. Nine games in, that emphasis is starting to pay off.
Hosting the Durango Demons on Tuesday, Oct. 1, the Panthers back line performed admirably, limiting their rivals to one goal in a 1-0 loss. The miniscule margin of defeat was especially impressive considering that the Demons outscored the Panthers 6-0 in Cortez last season.
Highlighting a competitive first half for the Panthers was the play of junior goalie Bridger Brenner, who, after making his first save of the game on a shot by Demons’ midfielder Zeb Soignier in the 20th minute, produced one of his finest plays of the season.
With the Demons pressing forward in the game’s 31st minute, forward Cameron Treharne broke free of the Panthers’ defense and fired a hard shot from the left side of the box. Protecting the near post beautifully, Brenner knocked the shot down before quickly pouncing on the rebound before Demons’ attackers could capitalize on the loose ball.
“(Brenner) was outstanding,” said Fitzgerald. “He was definitely the MVP of the game. Today, he played the best that I’ve seen him play.”
Largely because of Brenner’s saves, as well as a right goal post that got in the way of a Demons’ header in the 40th minute, the game remained 0-0 entering the half.
“Just keeping our line was the main thing,” said Panthers’ sophomore defender Ian Roberson, discussing his team’s strong defensive play in the first half. “It’s extremely important for us to keep that up for the rest of the season.”
In the second half, the Panthers defense continued to shine as senior defender Briston Walker thwarted a Demons’ scoring chance with a strong tackle inside his own box during the game’s 44th minute.
Three minutes later, Brenner would stop yet another Demons’ scoring opportunity by remaining on the left side of his net before sliding out to intercept a left to right cross.
“You have to read those crosses like that,” said Brenner. “When you read those crosses, you’re not just running around in your goal. You are cutting that off and taking the shot away from them.”
During the game’s 51st minute however, there was no cutting off the Demons. After a perfect through-ball by Durango midfielder Tony Williams, midfielder Devin Lewis found himself at least five yards ahead of the Panthers defense and after dribbling in on Brenner, fired a low shot to the left corner for the score.
Following Lewis’ goal, the Panthers defense would hold the Demons scoreless for the rest of the game. Unfortunately, the hometown team’s offense was never able to get going however, and the score remained 1-0 for the rest of the way.
“The (forwards) tried their best, and we did as much as we could,” said Panthers’ junior Taren Lanier. “They are a tough team.”
Even with the loss, head coach Sean Fitzgerald was pleased.
“You know, we talked today,” said Fitzgerald. “We played to feet. We had better touches on the ball. Everything is starting to come together.”
Next up for the Panthers will be road matchups in Grand Junction against Aspen and Grand Junction High School on Friday, Oct. 4.
The Panthers will then play on the road against Montrose on Saturday, Oct. 5.
Sam Green/Cortez Journal