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Panthers soccer picks up first victories

Raul Soto takes the ball down the field for the Panthers. against Bloomfield Aug. 31. The sophomore midfielder had a chance Tuesday to score from a free kick, but his attempt on goal screamed past the post. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)
M-CHS offense runs rampant in Homecoming Week sweep

It was only a matter of time. After being held to just three goals in their opening six matches, the Montezuma-Cortez soccer team showed its potential in the attacking third, tallying 10 goals in two Homecoming Week matchups, sweeping past Alamosa 4-0 on Friday and Kirtland Central 6-5 on Sept. 14.

The Panthers headed into the week looking to get back on track in the 3A Southwest League, after suffering shutout losses to Pagosa Springs and Bayfield. While the defense had kept M-CHS in some of their recent matches, the offense hadn’t quite materialized.

With the talented attacking front of senior Ben Byerly and junior Evan LaMunyon, along with the midfield presence of junior Gabriel Crowley and senior Trevor Croke, goals appeared to be inevitably coming.

This week opened the flood gates.

Evan LaMunyon leaps to take control of the ball for the Panthers against Bloomfield on Aug. 31. LaMunyon gave the Panthers their first goal Friday against Alamosa. (Sam Green/Special to The Journal)

The Panthers (2-6, 1-2 3A SWL) opened play against Alamosa with clear intent, to keep Mean Moose goalkeeper Cody Gonzalez busy.

Controlling midfield possession right from the opening whistle, the Panthers peppered several shots at the Alamosa goal. For the opening quarter-hour, the Panthers primarily hemmed in the Alamosa defense.

Their reward came in the 16th minute, when a well-weighted through-ball found the feet of Byerly, who smacked a shot on frame. Gonzalez did his best to keep it out, but parried it right into the path of LaMunyon, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net to put the Panthers in front 1-0.

The Panthers nearly doubled their advantage 10 minutes later, when Byerly found the ball at his feet and his back to goal. He deftly turned his defender and fired a low shot but couldn’t quite sneak it past Gonzalez. Sophomore midfielder Raul Soto also had a chance from a free kick in a dangerous location, but his attempt on goal screamed past the post.

Ultimately, the Panthers needed heroics from their own goalkeeper, senior Trinidad McDonell, to preserve their lead heading into halftime. Alamosa forward Johnathan Rodriguez found a pocket of space at the top of the box, and fired a missile toward the bottom corner. McDonell, however, made a fantastic reaction save, diving to his right to keep the shutout alive.

Out of the intermission, the Panthers sought to put the game away. Four minutes after halftime, Crowley broke past his defender on the right wing, and sent a cross to the top of the box. With plenty of space, Croke settled the ball, then fired an unstoppable shot to the upper corner to put the Panthers in front, 2-0.

The rout was on. The Panthers continued to put a barrage of shots on goal, as Byerly eventually did get the goal he deserved, along with a goal from senior JT Carver to close out the Mean Moose.

As for the defense, head coach Kevin McGarigal had to be pleased with his team’s composure at the back, and their deserved first clean sheet of the campaign.

The result followed up a wild 6-5 shootout against Kirtland Central. The Panthers and Broncos battled to a 2-2 score line at the half, before the Panthers put four past the visitors in the second half.

With momentum on their side, the Panthers look forward to a challenging road trip to Aztec on Thursday, Sept. 23 for a night match against the Tigers. M-CHS will return home two days later for a rematch against Grand Junction Central, which topped the Panthers in their first meeting this year.