Someday soon, Butte High boys’ soccer coach Eric Zahler thinks his team is going to get over the hump.
“It’s there. You see it,” Zahler said. “I think that’s what’s frustrating is you see it. You’re seeing great communication, you’re seeing great positioning. We’re always maintaining our shape. ”
The Bulldogs, though, have struggled putting the ball in the back of the net. That was the story again Friday as Butte High fell 3-1 to Billings West in an Eastern AA match at the Jeremy Bullock Complex.
Butte High, which is still playing without injured Matt Loeffler, trailed 3-0 before Connor Powers scored off a Marcus Madrazo assist 62 minutes into the match.
“You’re seeing a lot of back-and-forth soccer,” Zahler said. “We’re getting opportunities, they’re getting opportunities. We’re just having trouble finishing. That’s been the story since Matt’s gone down.”
Donovan Luce scored off a Kevin Rangitsch assists 8 minutes into the match. West made it 2-0 on a when Jorey Ableman found the net off a Luce pass in the 31st minute.
“They scored their first two opportunities,” Zahler said. “When you let a team score their first two shots, you on your heals.”
The Bears made it 3-0 when Kevin Welliever scored off a corner kick by Max Ambrosat in the match’s 59th minute.
Butte High, which fell to 1-3-1 overall and 1-2 in conference, battled in a game that was fairly heated toward the end.
“They’re fighting and they’re playing yard,” Zahler said. “This is a good team, and we’re going to be OK. We’ve just got to find some way to finish in our final third.”
Zahler praised the play of Andrew Howery, Gradeigh O’Keefe and Travis Williams in the back row.
“Our whole back row played well,” the coach said.
Madrazo was a force in the middle. He even bounced right back up after an accidental boot to the head.
“That’s what Marcus does. He hustles, he’s all over the place,” Zahler said. “He works hard, hustles, hard, plays hard. He gets kicked in the nose, he gets up. He’s just a fighter, and that’s what you want to have in the middle of the field.”
The Bulldogs hit the road Saturday to take on Billings Senior. Zahler said he hits the road looking for that breakthrough performance.
“We’re playing with everybody. We’re in games,” he said. “We just need that one more step.”