LONGMONT — The Niwot boys soccer season got off to a positive and muddled start Thursday.
The Cougars beat the Skyline Falcons 2-0 in the season opener for both teams, but it wasn’t under the circumstances they expected. Head coach Merv Johnson, who was hired in July to take over for Rob Johnson, wasn’t on the sidelines as expected. Merv Johnson turned in a letter of resignation Saturday night, leaving the program scrambling for a replacement less than a week before the season started.
Rob Johnson stepped in a few months after stepping down. He had resigned because he was hired as a campus monitor at Niwot High School this summer and, because he is a classified hourly employee, is not allowed to hold a paid coaching position since the district would be required to pay him overtime
That all changed last weekend. Monday, NHS athletic director Jim Butterfield received emergency clearance from the district to hire Johnson as a temporary coach, and he was on the sidelines for the first game.
Butterfield said Merv Johnson didn’t give a reason for his resignation, and the former coach could not be reached Thursday night.
“We’ve only trained for a couple of days and we haven’t had a scrimmage,” said Rob Johnson, who led Niwot to the Class 4A semifinals last year. “I can’t be disappointed. These guys stepped up and took care of business.”
It took a little time, but the Cougars finally got on the board in the second half. Carlos Dominguez scored in the 58th minute when he took a pass from Danny Witt, made a move near the goal and beat netminder Jesus Aguirre Quinones to make it 1-0.
“We were all nervous, it being our first game, but the first goal gave us confidence,” Dominguez said. “Danny got a good ball to me. I saw him coming in hard so I pulled it back and shot it. It was a good team goal.”
The Cougars had to withstand some pressure from the Falcons before taking the lead. Ten minutes before Dominguez scored, Skyline midfielder Jesus Cervantes nearly scored on a point-blank shot, but sophomore goalie Jack Fitzgerald came up with the save.
“The guy had a breakaway and one of my center defenders, Aldair (Cintora), he touched the ball away and I went for it,” Fitzgerald said. “The guy kicked it into my arms and I took it to my gut. It was a pretty simple save but it was my first varsity save.”
The Falcons put some pressure on trying to get the tying goal but couldn’t break through. Junior Grant Webster iced the game with a goal in the 78th minute.
“We kept the 0-0, and in the second half we made a few mistakes,” Skyline junior Jonathan Timms said. “For the first game, never really playing together as a team, it’s really a good result. I’m not disappointed with it at all.”
Neither were the Cougars, who a week ago were playing for a different coach.
Niwot 2, Skyline 0
At Skyline H.S.
Niwot (1-0) 0 2 — 2
Skyline (0-1) 0 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Carlos Dominguez (Danny Witt), 58th minute; Grant Webster (David Almanza), 78th minute. Skyline: None.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Niwot: Jack Fitzgerald (80-0-4); Skyline: Jesus Aguirre Quinones (80-2-6).