Moriarty High’s boys soccer team had its share of chances last Saturday against the visiting Hope Christian Huskies but East Mountain resident Ben Gutierrez proved to be the proverbial thorn in the Pintos’ side.

Gutierrez, the Huskies’ senior center-midfielder who lives in Sandia Park, had an assist on his team’s first goal, and scored the game-winner midway through the second half to help lead Hope to a 2-1 district victory.

I was just in the right place at the right time,” Gutierrez said.

Both teams came into the match undefeated in District 4-1A/4A.

The Pintos (9-4-1, 2-1 in district) were riding a four-game winning streak—a stretch where they had outscored their opponents 21-2.

The top-ranked Huskies (13-1, 4-0)—who were missing their starting goalkeeper, Tijeras resident Brandon Bagon due to a hip injury—managed to possess the ball a little more than the Pintos did for most of the match.

Moriarty got in position to score a couple of times in the first 20 minutes but came up empty, including one shot that hit the right goal post.

The Huskies got on the board in the 27th minute when Gutierrez gathered a loose ball around 30 yards out from Moriarty’s goal and sent an arcing pass over a cluster of players in the 18-yard box. His teammate Kevin Sanchez slipped behind the defense and fired the ball to the right of Moriarty’s diving goalkeeper Ethan Tolleson.

The ball was coming out and I just went for it and I chipped it to Kevin and he got it in,” Gutierrez said.

Moriarty’s Talon Hart scored an equalizer five minutes later when he got control of the ball and nailed a hard, right-footed strike to the left side of the net. “It came off a free kick and we all challenged it,” Hart said. “It bounced once and I took the ball and put it to the far post. I was pumped at that point, I thought we’d get the lead after that.”

The scored remained 1-1 until midway through the second half when the Pintos began to run out of gas.

I think it definitely changed around the last twenty minutes,” Moriarty head coach Jordan Allcorn said. “It was just fatigue of having to ball chase—but the boys kept battling.”

In the 61st minute, Gutierrez took control of a cross-pass and tapped in the game-winner from 7 yards out. “Our wing had it and he crossed it over my head toward our other wing but we both had a chance at it and I figured I’d just take it,” he said.

We were right there,” Allcorn said. “We competed, we had opportunities to win it, but they’re a good squad—they’re tough to beat.”

With district matchups accounting for all but one of the remaining games on the schedule—including trips to Roswell, Ruidoso and Portales—Allcorn said his team can’t take anyone lightly, but added, “As long as we take care of business we should be all right.”

The Pintos played Tuesday at the New Mexico Military Institute after The Independent went to print.

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