BLACKFOOT — The largest soccer crowd of the year welcomed the Blackfoot Broncos and the Snake River Panthers to the pitch on Saturday afternoon and not one of them left disappointed with the play on the field as the two teams put on a marvelously played game, with the home standing Broncos earning the 1-0 victory.
“It was difficult to play this game with how well that we know each other,” Blackfoot head coach Liam Pope said. “You could hear them talking about keeping Carlos Murillo on his right and likewise our team talk about their players and their habits and I think that because they know each other, that each team really wanted to win. You saw that in the first twenty minutes because that part of the game was all about passion rather than skill or technique.”
Big saves were the name of the game in the first half of play with Andy Garcia turning away Blackfoot opportunities for the Panthers and the double O agent, Ozzy Oseguera thwarting several Snake River scoring opportunities.
“It was a well played game on both ends but both teams and I really give credit to my defense and my goalie for playing such a great game today,” Snake River head coach Trevor Peterson said. “Every body that I played in there, they all stepped up and played hard.”
Snake River very well could have had an early lead midway through the first half if not for a brilliant play by Blackfoot’s sweeper Luis Oseguera. A Cooper Clemens shot had bounded past Ozzy but an alert Luis raced to the goal line and kicked the ball out of harms way just inches ahead of the line.
Several other goal opportunities eventually went by the way side for each team for the remainder of the half and heading to the break, the score stood at 0-0.
“Ozzy is an intimidating force for us because he comes off the line so well and when he does that, it stops some shots before they even occur,” Coach Pope said.
The stalemate continued for most of the second half until Blackfoot finally solved the Panthers defensive riddle in the seventy-second minute of play.
Blackfoot got a good shot on goal but once again Garcia was there for the save, the ball caromed off of his hand however and a second shot was blasted towards the goal. Blackfoot was denied however as Bradley Cruz stepped in front of the shot but the rebound found it’s way to the waiting right foot of Gerardo Bartolo who jumped on the chance with a perfectly placed shot. The ball was true into the back of the net and while Bartolo celebrated with a back flip, the Blackfoot fans erupted in jubilation at the 1-0 lead.
“I really like the fact that we got a second and third chance,” Coach Pope said. “That was one thing that concerned me in our previous two games that we weren’t following up so it was nice that we got the follow up for the goal. Gera is good at that to, he has good instincts about being at the right place at the right time.”
Down but not out, the Panthers continued to press forward but for Panther fans, the tying score just didn’t materialize as Blackfoot held the Panthers at bay for the remaining 8 minutes of play.
“A lot of these guys know each other and they know how it goes but it was a fun game to watch,” Coach Peterson said. “Even though we are in different conferences it’s still the Blackfoot-Snake River rivalry and I’m very proud of my team. Our kids have their heads up because they know that they played a strong game today and I honestly think that this game could have gone either way.”
With the win Blackfoot improves their record to 3-0 on the season and perhaps most impressively, the Broncos have outscored their opponents 12-0.
“I’m very happy that we have yet to be scored on,” coach Pope said. “Starting 3-0 is certainly a great way to start the year but we will see where we are at in a couple of weeks after we go through four conference games.”
With the loss Snake River drops to 1-1-1 on the season and they to have been very stingy on defense, allowing just 2 goals over those three games while tallying 13 of their own.
Both teams will be back in action on Tuesday with Blackfoot hosting Madison and Snake River traveling to Teton.