Boys’ soccer team fights tired legs, thrills fans

Boys’ soccer team fights tired legs, thrills fans
Butte High’s Brandon Quinn (6) of the Purple team battles Ahmed Khalil of the White team for possession of the ball Friday at Naranche Stadium. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

The Butte High boys’ soccer team was a tired bunch heading into Friday’s Purple and White Game at Naranche Stadium.

Coach Eric Zahler had put his team through a tough first week of practice, pushing the Bulldogs to the limit for conditioning. Making matters worse on the sunny early evening was the new artificial turf put the on-field temperature somewhere close to 100 degrees.

If that bothered the Bulldogs, however, it was impossible to tell.

“They came out, they played hard and the pushed through it,” Zahler said. “They played well.”

The Bulldogs scored five goals in the crowd-please game. Purple won 4-1 in a game that saw coach Eric Zahler switch things up a bit.

“We put two equal teams out there in first half and there was equal opportunity on both ends,” Zahler said. “In the second half we went JV against varsity.”

Junior Shaun Villa was credited with a goal for the White team in the first half. Seniors Zach Archibald and Kyle Rauch knocked in goals for the Purple.

Senior Oscar Kronenberger kicked in a pair of goals in the second half for the Purple squad, which was the varsity team after the break.

“I told the varsity basically possess the ball, create your opportunities and get direct after that. “Boy, they did it spot on,” Zahler said. “After a while we told them to try to score off crosses. The last three opportunities were off crosses. They listened.”

Archibald, Kronenberger and Rauch are three of seven seniors Zahler is counting on doing big things for the Bulldogs in 2016. Ryson Lovshin, Eric Todd, Brock Powell and Travis Williams are the others.

Villa and goalkeeper Erik Rosa are juniors who played key roles as sophomores.

“The soccer IQ is there this year,” Zahler said. “The fundamentals are there this year. We’re a little light in the speed category. This team will put it together and they’ll make a run.”

The Bulldogs will see their first opponent next week when they play at the Great Falls Jamboree. Zahler said he is looking forward to it.

“The Jamboree will be a great test for us,” the coach said. “We get to see (Missoula) Hellgate, who won state last year, and then we get to see (Missoula) Big Sky, who finished last in the conference last year. We get to see two non-conference opponents — one at the top and one at the bottom. It will give us a true gage as to where we stand.”

The Bulldogs will head back to Great Falls to take on CMR on Sept. 1. They play Great Falls High two days later in their home opener.

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