NIWOT — Saturday was a grinder for the Niwot soccer team, despite what the final score may indicate.
The history between the Cougars and Green Mountain is short — the teams hadn't played each other in years up until the 2016 season — and the Rams have brought an edgy kind of play to the pitch and plenty of distractions have accompanied them on the sidelines.
For Niwot on Saturday, the task was to take the high road after gaining an early 2-0 lead on the Rams, and they were able to fend off frustrations and put their heads down in a 6-3 victory to take them to 6-0-1 on the season.
At one point in the second half, the center official stopped the game to deal with several Green Mountain fans who were giving the crew a hard time verbally, while on the field there were many complaints from Green Mountain players about fouls not going their way.
That was all secondary to the fact the Cougars got stronger as they went along, scoring four times to surge ahead in what was a fast-paced game. A pair of goals within one minute of each other — scored by Tyler Crall and Jesus Gonzalez in the 56th and 57th minutes — made the score 4-1 and the Rams (3-5) never got back within two goals the rest of the way.
"It was a great game, and it taught us some things but really the guys came out and won the second half," said Niwot head coach Stephen Dimit, whose team begins Northern League play Wednesday at Northridge. "They made better decisions in front of goal in the second half. We haven't exploded like that on offense yet this year, so that really was nice.
"Last year was a weird game and it was a little chippy, lot of talk back and forth. Credit to their coach because I thought he did a good job of managing the game this time. One of our goals this year is to play classy and I thought we did that even though there was physical play and talking from the sideline."
Niwot looked early like it was going to run roughshod on the Rams, scoring two goals in the first seven minutes of play. Fans were still making their way down the hill to the field when Jonathan Jimenez Flores made it 1-0, and the combination of Cam Lee, Rodriguez and Manny Tapia connected beautifully across the goal box for a score in the seventh minute to make it 2-0.
But Green Mountain's Johnny Struzeski finished a cross off the end line in the 18th minute to make it 2-1, and Niwot's many attempts on the doorstep the rest of the half were thwarted if even by a hair.
Niwot continued to mount pressure as the second stanza started, and the Cougars nearly knocked in another goal in the 44th minute when Jimenez Flores crossed in to Tapia for a crack at the far post, but the team was rewarded with some good chances in the goal box to finish off the game.
Five players potted goals, including a lob shot from Gonzalez that represented his first varsity goal.
"He's been one of our best players, but he just never shoots so that was exciting," Dimit said of Gonzalez. "I mean, that's your game-winner right there so it's pretty sweet."
"We went in quick and got two goals, but we fell down a little bit from there so at halftime we talked about things," added Jimenez Flores. "We just played out wide, started trusting each other a little more with the ball, quick passes. That all helped us. We're feeling good and excited, and we're just practicing hard for league."
Niwot 6, Green Mountain 3
At Niwot HSGreen Mountain (3-5)12—3Niwot (6-0-1)24—6
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Jonathan Jimenez Flores (unassisted), 2nd minute; Niwot: Manny Tapia (Jason Rodriguez assist) 7th; Green Mountain: Johnny Struzeski (Konrad Buschbacher), 18th; Niwot: Tyler Crall (Rodriguez), 56th; Niwot: Jesus Gonzales (unassisted), 57th. Green Mountain: Struzeski (unassisted), 66th. Niwot: Rodriguez (penalty kick), 73rd. Green Mountain: Struzeski (penalty kick), 75th. Niwot: Crall (Rodriguez), 78th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Green Mountain: Ian Jones (80-6-8); Niwot: Mario Munoz (80-3-4).