After a great start, the Crook County Cowboys struggled late in the match as they gave up eight straight goals in an 8-1 loss to the Ridgeview Ravens in non-league soccer action.
"I felt like the match went all right, said Crook County midfielder Brogyn Miller-Sampson. "Yesterday's game, the way that we were set up in the beginning had some definite advantages. I did feel like towards the end of the game we did get a little bit winded, but I feel like we started the season pretty strong."
Playing on the road in their opening game of the season, the Cowboys couldn't have gotten off to a better start than they did Tuesday afternoon.
The Ravens had already played two games, but at the beginning, the Crook County defense looked impenetrable.
Ridgeview began the match controlling time of possession. However, the Cowboys were able to prevent the Ravens from getting good looks at the goal, and Crook County was able to counterattack effectively.
With the score tied 0-0, the Cowboys went on a counter attack approximately 15 minutes into the first half. As the Cowboys moved the ball down the field, the Ravens were called for a foul.
Crook County defender Victor Ramirez came up from the back to take the direct free kick from 40 meters out on the right hand side. Ramirez struck a perfect shot, which sailed over the outstretched arms of Ridgeview goalkeeper Alex Nadermann, then dropped just below the crossbar into the goal, giving the Cowboys a 1-0 lead.
The Cowboys celebrated briefly, then went back to playing defense.
For the next 10 minutes, the Cowboy defense continued to look strong.
Then, with 15 minutes remaining in the half, the Ravens capitalized on a Crook County mistake as Jonathan Orozsco timed a pass perfectly and made a run behind the Crook County defense to score the game-tying goal.
Four minutes later, the Ravens threatened again. Initially the Cowboys were up to the challenge, kicking the ball out the back of the field.
However, on the ensuing corner kick, Jose Robles was able to head the ball past Crook County goalkeeper Mitchell Bennett and into the net.
Once they had the lead, the Ravens never let up.
Robles scored again just 30 seconds prior to the end of the half, giving the Ravens a 3-1 halftime lead.
Ridgeview made some adjustments at the break, and the Cowboys seemed to struggle to keep up as the game progressed.
Although the Crook County defense would look strong early in a Ridgeview possession, the Ravens would continue to pressure the Cowboys until they found a hole.
With the Ravens continuing to move the ball around and the Cowboy defense struggling with communication, Ridgeview began to exploit Crook County errors.
When Christian Kim scored five minutes into the second half, the Ravens led 4-1. Midway through the half, Cladio Fischer scored a goal, giving the Ravens a 5-1 lead.
Just when it looked like the Cowboys might get back into the contest, disaster struck.
Crook County made a deep run into the Ridgeview end of the field, with Ramirez making a perfect crossing pass to Elias Villagomez, who was behind the Ridgeview defenders. However, Villagomez rushed his shot, hitting it straight at Nadermann, who made a great save on the play.
Nadermann then rushed up the field four or five steps before blasting a kick that went deep down the field. The ball bounced on the 18-meter line, then bounced high into the air.
Bennett had come out away from the goal as the Cowboys took the ball down the field and was unable to get back to the goal in time as the ball bounced over his head and into the goal for an improbably goal from 90 meters out.
Nadermann threw his arms in the air and shouted "did anyone get that on video" as the ball dropped into the goal for a rare goalkeeper score.
That goal seemed to take the wind out of the Crook County sails as the Ravens were able to control the remainder of the game.
Kim scored his second goal of the contest with approximately 15 minutes remaining in the match to increase the Raven lead to 7-1.
Then Nick Nelson scored one final goal late in the contest as the Ravens ran away for the easy win.
"There were some issues with communication," Miller-Sampson said. "That's just something that we have to work on as a team, and that's something that we are definitely working on for the future."
The win improved the Ridgeview record to 1-2, while Crook County started its season 0-1.
Tuesday's game started under smoky skies, and the conditions worsened as the game progressed.
The Cowboys had just two players on their bench, while the Ravens suited 16 players for the match.
That seemed to benefit Ridgeview as the match progressed.
With the smoke worsening as play went on, the Cowboys looked tired, while the Ravens continued to look fresh throughout.
With so much smoke, the officials gave both teams water breaks midway through both halves. However, by game's end, conditions were so poor that the officials considered canceling the last few minutes of the match.
Smoke may continue to be an issue as the season moves on.
Three Central Oregon matches were canceled on Tuesday due to the smoky conditions, and other games have been canceled or postponed throughout the state.
The Cowboys were forced to cancel Wednesday's practice due to the smoky conditions, and as of Thursday morning, conditions had not improved.
The Cowboys were scheduled to play the Redmond Panthers, 0-1, at home Thursday afternoon.
However, at press time, that match looked unlikely as the smoke in Central Oregon continued to be thick.
"Hopefully this game isn't going to get canceled," Ramirez said, after finding out that Wednesday's practice had been. "The smoke is bad, but it's for our safety. It would be kind of frustrating to not have a game because of the smoke because we were really expecting to win our first game tomorrow. So hopefully, if the smoke does get bad and it does get canceled, we can get it rescheduled for the next week or something."
Following Thursday's game, the Cowboys are not scheduled to play again until Tuesday, Sept. 19, when they open Tri-Valley Conference play on the road at Estacada, 1-0. Game time is 4 p.m.