ELKO – Despite each team being eliminated from the playoffs, the Elko and Spring Creek boys soccer teams embarked in a spirited battle Tuesday, at Adobe Middle School.
Fans of offense would have been disappointed, the game playing out scoreless for 77 minutes.
Elko broke the drought with a penalty kick, the Indians winning their senior-night match by a final score of 1-0.
The match began with a game of cat-and-mouse, Spring Creek leaving few players in the front end and dropping the bulk of its mass to the back, Elko possessing the ball the majority of the time but facing a defense-heavy opposition.
Spring Creek’s best chance to book an initial score came on a cross by junior Noah Rice from the right side, the ball nearly finding the opposite side of the frame with no follow-up in place.
Elko missed out on a golden opportunity in the 13th minute.
Senior Andres Salas sent a long ball down the middle-left side of the pitch to senior Jorge Landeros, who one-touch crossed a dime of a pass to the right wing to sophomore forward Jose Ventura, but the boot missed wide-right.
The Indians took a hit when Landeros went down with an ankle injury just two minutes later.
A direct kick by Salas was stuffed by Spring Creek’s wall, the Spartans gaining notable defensive stops by senior Samuel Claridge in the back end and senior Garett Whimple in the midfield.
Another direct kick by Salas in the 29th minute missed wide-right from long distance.
In the 26th minute, Spring Creek sophomore Jackson Jones fielded the ball in the middle of the field and launched a one-touch kick toward the frame, the shot saved by Elko senior goalie Ryan Skidmore.
On the other end, Elko launched a free kick from the right sideline and headed a ball wide to the left side of the frame.
Elko earned a direct kick from close distance – just outside the box – Salas sending a kick off the body of Whimple.
In back-and-forth fashion, the Spartans earned a direct kick from the just beyond the 18-yard box when senior Chris DeAngelo was hooked while trying to make a charge down the right side.
The boot was stymied by Elko’s wall in the 33rd minute.
In the 39th minute, the Spartans were awarded a direct kick in the middle of the field from the 25 to 30-yard range – senior Brendyn Taylor’s kick sailing wide to the right.
At the break, the teams found themselves in a scoreless tie.
Scoring nearly kicked off quickly in the second half, DeAngelo finding a clean look from the right wing – the ball sailing high and over the frame.
Elko answered with a push of its own, the ball sent to the opposite wing to freshman Freddy Cervantes – whose kick also flew over the top of the crossbar.
In a light-hearted, feel-good moment, Elko senior Manny Ramirez – who has been sidelined all season with a torn ACL – stepped to the field and played for a couple minutes in his first and only action of the year.
Spring Creek launched a long shot from the left side, but Skidmore caught the ball out of the air from his right side of the frame.
The Indians sent another ball over the frame on a long-distance boot by Landeros.
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Junior Natu Meles freed himself in the box with a nasty ball fake, but his shot skied high and over the crossbar – the Indians routinely and increasingly finding more opportunities to score but unable to cash in.
Landeros made a run down the right wing and punched a shot into the right-outside portion of the net.
Ventura also found a glimpse of an opening in the middle of the box, but the kick was off-target.
In the 58th minute, Elko junior Noe Guzman turned his shoulders north-south but his boot also went over the top of the crossbar.
Following an Elko foul, senior Samuel Herman sent a long free kick down the field – Jones heading the ball toward the center – the deflection bouncing toward the Indians’ frame.
Skidmore picked the ball out of the air before DeAngelo could reach it on the right side.
The Spartans launched another direct kick from near the midfield circle in the 66th minute, Taylor’s kick flying wide to the right.
On a long ball toward Spring Creek’s frame, junior goalie Brandon Shields came forward and made a sliding scoop just before junior Sammy Aguirre could place a foot on the ball.
With 10 minutes remaining, Spring Creek fired a corner kick from the right side – Elko avoiding a multiple-volley situation of headers.
Elko was issued multiple offside penalties on runs down the left side of the field, each coming after Spring Creek corner kicks.
With less than six minutes remaining, the Spartans fired multiple shots from long distance but the kicks were rushed – each flying well to the right of their intended targets.
At the 77-minute mark, Ventura was pushed in the back on the left side – the foul taking place in the box – Elko awarded a penalty kick.
Meles’ PK was true, stringing the twine on the right side of the net – the Indians taking a 1-0 lead.
After a Spring Creek advance, Salas forced a turnover and flipped the field – senior Eddy Sainz launching a long attempt that narrowly floated over the top of the crossbar.
In stoppage time, Spring Creek drilled a line drive on a direct kick from the right side but Skidmore caught the attempt.
Another boot from the left wing by Rice flew wide-right, serving as the Spartans’ final chance for an equalizer.
The Indians earned a direct kick from near midfield, Salas’ boot coming at the whistle and flying wide to the right side.
Elko earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Spring Creek on the Indians’ senior night.
“We play Spring Creek better on a big field. When we play out there, it’s tough to score when they all fall back and pack in the defense,” said Elko coach Alonso Lujan. “We control the game when have more room to operate. Our defense played very well today too, and Ryan Skidmore played a smart game in the goal.”
The Indians improved to 5-10-1 in league play, dropping the Spartans to an even record of 5-10-1 and tying each other for sixth place in the 3A North standings – neither team able to move up to the fifth and final berth to the postseason.
The boys will finish the season on the road, Elko playing at 4 p.m. Thursday at Fallon and noon Friday against Lowry, in Winnemucca.
Spring Creek will take on Lowry at 4 p.m. Thursday, wrapping up at noon Friday in Fallon.