Fighting off the potential shock-and-awe factor of a first-minute goal by Manitou Springs senior Ryan Bergsten, Bayfield netted their first goal of 2018 just 10 minutes later, courtesy skilled Italian foreign-exchange student Mattia DiBello, on Friday afternoon, Aug. 31, inside Wolverine Country Stadium,
"Seeing them when they have full energy, are not tired, are able to move and stay in positioning, really uplifted me," said BHS head coach Chris Zoltowski, "and I think uplifted the team to understand, you know, 'Hey! We stay in these positions, we can put up against the best teams!'"
But Ben Mack's Mustangs, upset victims in the first round of last season's Class 3A State Tournament, needed only 10 minutes more to regain the lead, with junior Seamus Lowe finishing a set-up pass from sophomore Isaiah Thomas. Senior Jacob Cole then converted an assist from Lowe in the 24th minute for a 3-1 advantage that held into halftime.
"I knew coming into this game that it was going to be a fight, tough battle," said Zoltowski, who during intermission switched keepers from senior Bailee Blakeslee to freshman prospect Caleb Lake. "We're learning a new formation right now, trying something that we've never done - this program has never done - to help us understand positioning better. And I think they're starting to learn it; playing this in real time is helping us multiply our growth rate, which I'm super excited about."
Thomas re-started the scoring in the 52nd after a Cole shot, initially deflected by Lake, ricocheted directly onto his foot, and he struck again in the 67th. Cole and Porter Frederickson then provided the finishing touches with goals in the 72nd and 80th minutes, respectively as MSHS improved to 1-0 overall while Bayfield dipped to 0-3.
Up next, the Wolverines will travel north and east to Crested Butte for a 3 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Sept. 8, completing the sides' home-and-home much earlier in the season than usual. Pagosa Springs then visits for a 4 p.m. start Tuesday, Sept. 11 in Bayfield.
"Crested Butte, and then Pagosa; I think that's what we're all really excited about," Zoltowski said. "I think right now our biggest weakness is transitions. We're not getting back on time, not marking, we're not finding players, we're just kind of ball-watching. We're really going to be focusing on that."
MISSING COG: Unfortunately for BHS, junior midfielder Jason Schneider appeared to have wracked an already-braced right knee during the match, was carted off as a precaution and did not return.
"Jason came in banged-up - missed a couple practices before this - and we were just hoping for the best," said Zoltowski. "Right now we have Tristan (French, freshman stepping into that role.has the speed but lacks experience. So there is a silver lining, that Tristan is going to learn that position better and he's going to grow."