Sat, March 28

Road to league soccer titles likely to go through Flagstaff

Staff Photo by Eric Lusk

Both Flagstaff squads went into weekend action with 2-0 GCR records. The Mingus boys fell to 1-1 in region play, 8-4-1 overall. The Mingus girls dropped to 0-2 in the region, 6-6 overall.

Both games were played on the faux grass at Peak View County Park in Flagstaff.

BOYS: As expected, this duel between the longtime league rivals proved rough and physical, with numerous fouls and a handful of injuries. Josh Lucas' goal for Flagstaff midway through the first half held up despite the Marauders' furious rally in the second half.

Mingus was outshot 9-2 in the opening 40 minutes but outshot the Eagles 7-6 in the second half. Marauder coach Duane Badger still isn't sure how some of those second half boots didn't make it into the Flag goal.

Larry Badger hit a rocket that the Eagles' goalkeeper barely tipped over the top bar. Cody Rongo sent a corner kick right in front of the Flag net, but Mitch Schumacher couldn't quite get enough foot on it to send it over the line. Dane Mickelsen also had a blast that seemed like a Mingus goal until the Flagstaff goalie covered it up.

"We had a couple of breathtaking opportunities, but there seemed to be a force field on the goal as our shots hit a post or got deflected at the last possible moment," coach Badger said. "The game concluded with an extremely physical final 15 minutes of play.

"Many players from both teams ended up on the ground and a couple of players had to be assisted from the field. Play was stopped more than once for an injury substitution. I was very proud of the team, however, because they played hard right up to the last second of the game."

The Marauders were playing a bit hobbled. Forward James Lawton was sick on game day. Midfielder Larry Badger was still nursing an injury sustained in last week's win over Page. Others had problems adjusting to the thin air in Flagstaff, elevation 7,000 feet.

"They came out and outplayed us for the first period," coach Badger said.

"Even though Flagstaff was passing very well, we were able to withstand their attack with our defense. (Keeper) Brady Flummer did a great job of stopping several hard shots during the first period."

Flummer had six saves before halftime.

Mingus and Flagstaff tied for last year's GCR regular season championship.

But Wednesday's loss may keep the Marauders from getting their hands on this year's trophy.

"It is still numerically possible to win the region by winning the remainder of our games and both Sinagua and Coconino defeating Flagstaff," coach

Badger said. "I do not like to be at the mercy of other teams so we will just have to do our best and wait to see what happens."

The region tournament is most critical for locking up a state playoff berth.

Only the regular season champion gets an automatic berth to state. The other two spots are up for grabs in the GCR tournament no matter how teams fared in the regular season. The Marauders have their eyes set on landing one of those spots.

If recent trends continue, especially on defense, they should have no problem achieving their goals.

"We have been scored on fewer times than anyone in the region," coach Badger said. "We are still working hard to get more shutouts, and have only been scored on twice in the second period all season long. We have outscored our opponents 30-13, and I expect that number to increase in our favor before the season is completed."

GIRLS: The Marauders played well in stretches against the reigning region champions. But in the end, Flagstaff's speed and precise passing proved too much.

The Eagles took a 2-0 lead by halftime on goals by Jeanne Davis and Sarah Vallen. Flagstaff went up 3-0 about 15 minutes into the second half on a slow-roller goal by Davis.

Ashley Brower put Mingus on the board late in the second half after teammate Sharon Langford was taken down hard by the Flagstaff keeper just outside the penalty box. Brower hooked a free kick around a wall of defenders and into the right side of the net.

Flagstaff's final score came with about four minutes remaining. The Eagles improved to 11-2 overall with the win.

Mingus only recorded two shots on goal for the game. Forwards like Aileen Blair, Langford and others had trouble breaking open against Flagstaff's blanketing defense.

On a positive note, the Marauders' defense pulled Flag offsides numerous times in both halves. That prevented several breakaway attempts and kept Flag's high octane offense in check. Mingus keeper Emma Canning, despite playing injured, made several nice saves.

The Marauders have two games left in the regular season, hosting Sinagua on Wednesday and traveling to Payson on Friday. The all-important region tournament, which decides playoff berths, kicks off next week. Sinagua is the scheduled host, though games may be moved if the weather in Flagstaff is poor next week.

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