Boys' Soccer: SWEET, SWEET (FIRST) TASTE OF VICTORY
By BRANDON HURLEY
For the first match in school history, it certainly had a little bit of everything.
An equalizing penalty kick in the final minute?
Why not sprinkle in some frigid temperatures for good measure?
Got that one.
How bout we cap it off with a sudden death goal in overtime to send the home squad to victory?
Game, set and match.
The Greene County boys soccer team rewarded a community starving for the world’s most popular sport with a back-and-forth, emotional 4-3 win over Humboldt Monday night in the first varsity soccer game in school history.
Of course the record-setting moment had to come in the most heroic of fashions. Why make it easy and pain free on the fans and players? If they waited this long, surely a nail-biting, high-paced overtime game wasn’t too much more to ask of the Ram faithful.
After Junior Gutierrez sent the game into overtime with a successful penalty kick in the 79th minute, tying it at 3-3, a storybook moment neared.
Luis Tuesta, who initiated the explosive start to the Greene County soccer era with the program’s first shot just two minutes into the game, cemented Monday’s match in the school record books, converting the final shot of the night, a nifty goal into the right side of the net, past the outstretched arms of the keeper, five minutes into the extra frame.
He saw an opening and took it, making Greene County’s first match a night to remember.
“It’s awesome,” an out of breath Tuesta said following the electric win. “I told my brother (entering overtime), I thought about scoring the last goal and winning the game, it’s awesome. I don’t have words for it.”
Monday’s win was special in a number of ways, setting a high bar. But it was the fact the Rams even played in the first place is what made the night that much more gratifying. To cap it off with an overtime victory was the perfect ending to a Hollywood-like night.
“They were so excited. So many of these boys have played soccer for a lot of years not thinking they were ever going to get a chance to be on the field and have an opportunity as a varsity player for Greene County, for their school,” Behne said. “I’m just absolutely elated for the boys. I think it’s a great great opportunity for them. I think it’s going to help build the momentum personally as they grow as players over this year. That’s really what it’s all about for me. I really enjoy the fact that I know they’re going to go to school tomorrow with their heads held really high and shoulders broad.”
Behne was ecstatic with how Gutierrez composed himself to connect on the game-tying PK in regulation. With the Rams forced to push up and attack even more vigorously trailing by one, the sophomore took advantage of a rare late game opportunity in his first-ever varsity match. The magnitude of the moment wasn’t too big for him, Behne said.
“It’s no different than being on the free throw line and shooting a game winning free throw or being up to bat with two outs and the bases loaded and a full count,” Behne said. “You just have to go back to what you know how to do. You’ve got to breathe and execute. That’s all it boils down to. Junior’s a very technically sound individual. He knew he needed to put it within the crossbar and the goalie and make the goalie do the work. And that’s what he did.”
The coach didn’t exactly expect his guys to snatch victory from the jaws of near defeat so quickly in overtime. He was hoping to feel Humboldt out and maybe let the first 10 minute overtime go by, relying on the strength of their defense.
“When we broke the huddle, I just told them, defensively let’s get through this one,” the coach said. “If we need to get to the second overtime, we will but we don’t want to give up anything silly.”
Fitting to how the game began, the Rams refused to let up the gas. A few minutes after a hand-wringing shot glanced off the goalie 30 seconds in, a scramble in the Humboldt box left Tuesta with an opportunity to be a hero. And boy, did he ever come through in the clutch.
“Luis just happened to be in the right place at the right time again. He sees the field very well tactically,” Behne said. “He understands the game and he took advantage of their mistake.”
Leo Marques rang in the inaugural season with a breakout game as well, securing a handful of records that could stand for some time, recording the first goal in Greene County history with 9:18 left in the first half, which also signified the Rams’ first-ever lead, 1-0.
Marques established himself as the first Ram multi-goal scorer as well, giving Greene County a 2-1 lead a few minutes into the second half with his second score of the night. He finished with a school record 12 shots – five on goal – which ties him for fifth most shots in the state after one game.
As a team, the Rams tallied a staggering 24 total shots – 14 of them on goal. It was a fast start to what hopes to be a successful first year. The resiliency to come back, force overtime and capture a historical victory with a golden goal, is an encouraging measuring stick, Behne said. The Rams displayed top-notch footwork and ball handling, blitzing the Humboldt Wildcats for more than 10 shots in the first half, escaping for several breakaways thanks to well-placed passes. The offense looks to certainly be a strong point this season.
“I’m just proud of the boys proud of the heart that they showed,” Behne said. “We were up, so it’s easy to be high. They came back. They got the lead. It’s easy to kind of get down on yourself as a player. And they never did that and they worked hard. They kept doing what we needed to do.
Certainly we had a lot of opportunities on the on the defensive and we need to control the ball a little better but you know, those things are going to improve as the year goes along.”
Greene County is back home Thursday night (April 5) as they host Carroll. The Tigers are 0-1 on the season, coming off a 6-0 loss to 11th-ranked ADM. Carroll was 3-13 a year ago with 20 goals for while they allowed a staggering 78 goals against, a nearly five goal per game average.
Monday’s captivating triumph added an extra jolt to an already confident team. Snatching victory from a nearby rival, a 2A foe at that, could push the Rams even farther along on their inaugural journey.
“We have a really good team. We expect a lot,” Tuesta said. “We have to work on some mistakes. Work and make ourselves better.”
Kick is 6 p.m. Thursday at the former East Greene football field in Grand Junction.