Boys soccer: Erie off to quick start, downs Longmont

Evan Harbaugh and Evan Hutson each scored twice

ERIE — Erie's Evan Harbaugh beats Longmont Keeper Connor Taylor for the first goal Monday, Mar. 22, 2021. Brent W. New/
ERIE — Erie’s Evan Harbaugh beats Longmont Keeper Connor Taylor for the first goal Monday, Mar. 22, 2021. Brent W. New/

ERIE — No time to stumble in a shortened season, Evan Harbaugh got on the scoreboard in the opening minutes Monday evening, then did so again later, as the boys soccer program at Erie tallied yet another important league win.

The flashy senior set the tone against Longmont with his rebound put-back in the third minute and added his second of the year on the penalty kick. Evan Hutson added another two as part of a four-goal second half, including one by PK, and Zach Crooks also scored for Tigers, who moved to 2-0 on the season after the 5-nil result.

Call it a welcome sight for Erie, which goes into the spring with relatively zero room for error. The Tigers, along with all of the state’s soccer teams, will get up to just 10 games in the regular season to make the squeezed playoff pool just ahead.

“We understand we have to come out here, work our butts off and play like it’s our last,” Harbaugh said afterward. “We know it could knock us out (of playoff contention) if we lose.”

The soccer season opens in the same minefield other teams have been forced to navigate through the raging virus and restrictions placed upon sports because of it. A tight season is only a part of it.

For the Tigers and Trojans, their slates will reside entirely inside the 5A/4A Northern Colorado Athletic Conference.

Last Friday, Erie kicked things off beating crosstown rival Mead on the back of Crooks’ overtime winner. Then Monday, with gobs of snow outlining a cleared-off field after the most recent powdery blasts, the first two goals of the season for both Harbaugh and Hutson was more than enough in a second straight shutout.

Brent W. New/
Erie’s Zach Crooks fends off pressure from a Longmont defender during their game on Monday, Mar. 22, 2021 in Erie.

Longmont, meanwhile, played its third game in four days, falling to 0-3. Greeley Central and Greeley West each beat the Trojans by a pair of goals over the weekend.

Just started, the regular season ends mid-April.

“It creates a sense of urgency much earlier on in the season when you normally have 15 games,” Erie coach Jeff Vigil said. “At the same time, the first half we came out and were so conscious of that. We came out overly fired up. I don’t know if you can try too hard, but it felt like we were too amped up. We just got to put things into perspective and we want them to enjoy it.”

When boys soccer was last played on the state level 16 months ago, Harbaugh scored five goals in a strong junior campaign as the streaming Tigers advanced all the way to the second round of the 4A tournament.

His first goal beckoned what the evening would have in store. After Longmont keeper Connor Taylor knocked aside a strong attempt in front of him, the ball wiggled just out of his reach in the box as a heads-up Harbaugh flew in to put in the deflection.

Despite controlling game flow throughout, however, the Tigers wouldn’t connect again until Harbaugh’s PK in 58th minute made it 2-0. After that, the scoring ticked up as Hutson and Crooks followed up with swishes of their own in the next few minutes.

“When they play like they know how,” Vigil said, “and they get a little bit of a push, they’re good enough to do really well. It just means so much to them because it’s been so long since they played last.”

The one-sided win keeps Erie in pace in the 5A/4A NCAC, which will send two automatic qualifiers to the 16-team 4A playoffs. Windsor leads the league at 3-0.

Wednesday, Erie will travel to Silver Creek, while Longmont is at home against Holy Family.