Opening the 2014 season at home against Palisade, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys soccer team played far from its best.
Even so, the Panthers managed to pick up their first win of the season, defeating the Bulldogs 3-1 in an afternoon contest on Aug. 23.
Throughout the first 20-plus minutes, both teams played to a stalemate thanks to strong defensive play by both sides.
The Panthers finally broke through in the 29th minute however, after midfielder Aron Engel headed a ball to forward Manuel Martinez, who headed the ball into the upper left corner of the goal.
“We started out slow, but we were able to pick it up,” said Martinez. “I got that pass from Engel and was able to finish it. We just started picking up the pace from there.”
Not long after Martinez’s opening goal, the Panthers struck again, scoring just before the half when forward Andrew Laymon’s soft shot was mishandled by Palisade goalie Leo Marrero and ended up in the back of the net.
“I’ve been working on curling the ball a little bit,” said Laymon. “I was just trying to put it in the frame, and it went through (Marrero’s) hands and over the line.”
The Panthers scored their final goal of the contest in the 56th minute on a fine individual effort by Alex Fernandez, who, playing in his first varsity contest, chipped a 20-yard shot over Marrero and into the net.
The Bulldogs scored their only goal of the contest in the final minute after Marques Combes was fouled by Panthers goalie Bridger Brenner inside the box. Combes then fired his free kick into the bottom left corner of the net.
Panthers second-year head coach Sean Fitzgerald said that while he was pleased to get a win, he believes his team can play better.
“To be honest, we played sloppy, but a win’s a win right now. Our second half was 10 times better. The first half, I think we were a little nervous.”
M-CHS is 1-0-0 on the season, while Palisade dropped to 0-1-0.
The Panthers will return to the field on Aug. 26 for a home matchup against Ridgway.