Durango looks to end season with first boys state soccer title

Durango has an idea how the Buffalo Bills felt in the 1990s.

The boys soccer team has been good enough to reach the region title game the past three years. But after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Coronado in the Desert Region final, the Trailblazers have come up short three years in a row.

“It’s killing me,” coach Richard Cuellar said. “To lose that game was definitely heartbreaking.”

With the new tournament format this year expanding state to six teams, Durango will get one more shot in the Class 4A state tournament. The Trailblazers begin their quest for their first state title against Galena at 5 p.m. Thursday at Faith Lutheran with a major chip on their shoulder.

“We’re going to come out now hungry,” senior Tyson Tesfamariam said. “We made little mistakes against Coronado, but now we know what we need to fix, and we’re going to go ahead and fix them.”

Two years ago, Durango beat Valley in a play-in game to reach the state tournament, but with the tournament in Reno last year, a region loss sent the Trailblazers home. Durango reached the final for the only time in 2000.

Cuellar said the biggest key for the Trailblazers this week is not getting discouraged when they give up a goal. He said one-goal games aren’t common in high school, and, indeed, only four boys postseason games ended 1-0 or 0-0, and Durango won one of them.

So finishing goals was a major tenet of practice Wednesday. Cuellar wanted the team to be in position to get rebounds off the keeper and pressure the opposing net with quality shots on target.

And he also made sure that Jason Sotelo placed plenty of shots. The sophomore keeper registered four shutouts this season, including two in the region tournament. He is expected to start against Galena.

“Having another chance at the state title is a relief, because since we weren’t able to get that region title, we get a shot at state,” Sotelo said. “I know we have a good team, and everyone here is motivated to do well and hopefully win it.”

Durango finished the regular season as the Desert League’s No. 7 seed, then scored upset wins against Desert Oasis, Liberty and Bishop Gorman to punch a ticket to state. This year, losing the region title game doesn’t mean elimination from the state tournament or having to win a play-in game.

It just means a chance to erase the bad vibes and perhaps feel what it’s like to play for a state championship.

“I want it bad. Like, really bad,” Tesfamariam said. “All my four years, I’ve been to playoffs … I want it real bad before I leave. I just want a ring.”

Contact Justin Emerson at or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.

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