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SUNSET BOYS SOCCER: Spartans grab early lead, rely on defense to top Durango

Cimarron-Memorial boys soccer coach Mark Bailey ideally would have preferred a few more goals from his Spartans on Thursday.

But with his defense, the seventh-year coach didn’t need any extra help after his team built a two-goal lead at halftime.

Behind a tenacious second-half defense and despite playing shorthanded for the final 15 minutes, the Spartans outlasted Durango 2-1 in the Sunset Region semifinals at Bettye Wilson Park.

Cimarron (17-3-5) will face Legacy (9-9-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the region final at Bettye Wilson Park.

“(Richard) Crews, Luis Gallardo and Roberto Elicerio won the game for us today,” Bailey said. “It’s all defense. We have great defenders. Roberto is the best defender in the city. I’ve said it more than once.”

Elicerio, who has orally committed to the College of Southern Nevada, led the charge and was one of Cimarron’s most active players. Elicerio and Gallardo limited Durango’s touches all match long and were a big reason the Trailblazers only scored on one of 12 shots.

Crews did the rest at goalkeeper, finishing with five saves for the Spartans.

Arturo Bahena got Cimarron on the board just 10 minutes into the match off an assist from Ernan Hernandez. Durango goalkeeper Paolo Sarnataro went to play Hernandez on the left side of the box, which left an unguarded Bahena in the middle for an easy goal.

Dresdan Quackenbush added an insurance goal in the 35th minute to put the Spartans up 2-0. Gustavo Garcia-Reyes won a ball in the air over two Durango defenders before he passed to Quackenbush, who collided with Sarnataro prior to tapping the ball in.

“We want an early goal and to win like 4-1,” Bailey said. “But still, when you’re up 2-nil, that changes everything. It makes them come out really hard.”

The Spartans needed a strong effort on defense in the second half, particularly after Edgar Carillo Nunez was given his second yellow card of the match with 15 minutes to go.

Cimarron played down a man, but never lost its intensity. … at least on the defensive side.

In the second half, Durango outshot the Spartans, 7-3 and finished with four shots on goal. And despite controlling possession in the last 40 minutes, the Trailblazers only had Luis Cabrera’s goal in the 43rd minute to show for it.

Cabrera rebounded a corner kick in a crowded box and lasered it to the upper right corner to make it 2-1.

“I think they dominated us for like 25 minutes in the second half, but we clawed back in the last 12 to 15 minutes,” Bailey said. “We did what we had to do (a man down). …

“You park the bus. You stop diving in. I would’ve preferred a few less long balls there, maybe working it through the middle third a little more.”

Sarnataro made three saves for Durango (11-5-6).

Legacy 2, Bishop Gorman 1 — Daniel Quinones scored with a minute remaining to lift the Longhorns by the Gaels (11-4-4) in a Sunset Region semifinal.

Gorman’s Jake Bickford scored a goal midway through the second half on an assist by Cobi DeLeon to tie the match at 1-1.

Matthew Beasley converted a first-half penalty kick to give the Longhorns a 1-0 lead at halftime.

Juan Orpineda made three saves for Legacy.

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