Despite playing a man up for more than a half, the Northwest College men's soccer team fell 2-1 in overtime to Otero on Saturday in the final home game of the year for the Trappers. The contest featured the first-ever meeting between Region IX's two newest soccer programs.
If first impressions count for anything, it may also be the start of a heated rivalry between the two schools. Match officials stepped in on multiple occasions to break up exchanges between players and, in more than one case, hand out yellow cards.
Much of the first half was played out near midfield as neither defense surrendered a clear look at the goal. The Trappers had their best chance of the first half just after the 20th minute, firing a low ball to the near post that the Otero keeper could only deflect over the end line. On the ensuing corner kick, the Trappers sent the ball high over the crossbar.
A short while later, Otero produced its best look of the first half, sending a low ball skidding along the wet grass in the box and forcing Northwest's keeper to his knees for the save.
With roughly 10 minutes to play in the first half, the Rattlers received a red card for questioning an officials' call in front of the Northwest College bench. The call gave Northwest an 11-on-10 advantage for the remainder of the contest and left Otero sagging to cover its defensive end for much of the remainder of the first half.
Despite the Trappers' man advantage, it was Otero that produced the first goal of the game. The Rattlers capitalized on a Northwest defense that sagged too far off the ball on the right wing. The Colorado school sent a low, driving shot across the box and off the far post for a goal and a 1-0 edge.
Northwest produced multiple chances to tie the contest as the second half wore on. Sophomore Gavin LaFollette shaved the left post with a shot atop the box. Northwest also blasted a couple shots just high of the crossbar as relations between the two teams on the field remained tense.
Cody sophomore Jonathon Chavez finally broke the ice on the Trappers' side of the ledger, tapping home a carom off the crossbar for the tying goal. Both keepers made diving stops to their left in the closing minutes to send the contest to overtime.
Northwest maintained pressure on goal early in the overtime period, failing to connect on an attempted header off a corner kick early in the extra frame. The Trappers managed a couple additional shots on net, but then made a costly error, failing to get back on defense fast enough in transition, surrendering a long run and crossing pass that Otero planted in the back of the net for the game-winner.
The loss was just Northwest's second of the season. It also marked the team's first loss in Region IX play.
The Trappers, 7-2-2 overall and 3-1-2 in the region, wrap up the regular season this Friday and Saturday. Northwest travels to Laramie County Community College on Friday before heading to Colorado on Saturday for a return game against Otero.
Post-season tournament play in Region IX will begin Friday, Oct. 22, in Scottsbluff, Neb. Depending on results from around the region this week, the Trappers will be anywhere from a one to a three seed for that event. The Region IX tournament winner advances to district competition for a shot at spot in the NJCAA national tournament.