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Following a subpar outing this weekend, the Los Alamos Hilltopper boys soccer team wanted to prove something to itself and its competitors in District 2AAAA.
Such appeared to be the case Tuesday night at Sullivan Field.
Trying to bounce back from Saturday’s contest with Albuquerque High, Los Alamos topped the visiting Taos Tigers in its district opener. Los Alamos scored three goals in under eight minutes and cruised to a 6-0 win.
Just three days earlier, the Hilltoppers struggled against the largely unheralded Bulldogs, but the Bulldogs gave them all they could handle, forcing a shootout.
While Los Alamos took the shootout and a 3-2 victory at home, it was unsatisfying.
The problems that were apparent Saturday, particularly the lack of sharp passing through the tiers of the Hilltoppers’ formation, weren’t a problem against Taos, which just two seasons ago upset Los Alamos for the district title.
“That was the main focus, our passing,” Hilltopper forward David Wyman said. “We really worked on it. We had some really hard practices. That was our focus and it showed (Tuesday).”
Los Alamos came out hot as a pistol despite the rapidly-plunging temperatures in the second game of a doubleheader with the Hilltopper girls soccer team.
Los Alamos scored three times on its first four shots of the contest, with the third goal provided by Wyman on a short drop pass right to Davis Anson’s foot. Anson hit a 1-touch shot past a diving Isaiah Tyree, the Taos goalkeeper.
Anson would score three times in the first half of Tuesday’s game, popping in two headers in the sixth and 17th minutes to help give the Hilltoppers their huge early advantage.
For the game, Los Alamos took 25 shots, 15 in the first half. Tyree, whose defensive line couldn’t get a handle on the Hilltoppers’ attack, had to stop nine Hilltopper shots-on-goal.
Graham Delano, who spent time in the forward position late in the game, scored goals in both halves. He picked up the game’s opening score, heading in a flip throw-in from Nicholas Castaño less than three minutes in to spark the early-game rally.
Castaño has all but perfected the rather difficult art of the flip-throw and has turned it into an effective weapon. The flip-throw, which allows greater power and distance for the thrower, has become just as useful as any Hilltopper corner kick.
Los Alamos changed its look somewhat Tuesday to try to jump-start its offense which couldn’t get going because of the problems passing the ball down the field. Los Alamos came out in a 3-4-3 alignment, something Hilltopper head coach Evan Gartz said he’s been wanting to do with more regularity. The Los Alamos defense, however, hadn’t executed well enough in the formation to allow him to post an extra man in the midfield.
“The 3-4-3 give you a lot more looks,” he said. “(It) really works if you play smart soccer and it worked (Tuesday).”
Los Alamos’ defense was up to the challenge Tuesday, allowing just three Taos shots, all of them coming in the first half.
The Hilltoppers (6-4 overall, 1-0 in district) tacked on two other goals in the second half, with Andy Thoma and Delano delivering in the 59th and 79th minutes.
The game marked the final time, at least for the next four years, that Taos would travel to Sullivan Field as a district foe. Taos (3-7 overall, 0-1 in 2AAAA) will drop down into Class AAA following this academic year and be replaced by Santa Fe High, which is dropping down from Class 5A following the year’s conclusion.
Wyman said afterward he’s looking forward to the remainder of the district season, for a number of reasons.
“We’re really improving,” he said. “It’s been going around to some of the fans that we’d been having a bad season. But we showed the fans and we showed the rest of the district that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
To defend its district title from a season ago, Los Alamos will have to go through Capital twice. Capital is having possibly the best start to a season its program has ever enjoyed, going 8-1 in the nondistrict season before its meeting Tuesday on the road at Española Valley.
Capital won big in that contest, 11-2.