The state championship games will be played Tuesday and Wednesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, giving the remaining six teams an opportunity to take the field where the state’s professional soccer team plays.
The Class 3A game features top-ranked Colorado Springs Christian (18-0-1) against No. 3 Denver Christian (15-2-2) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, while Niwot (17-2-0) and Rock Canyon (12-5-2) meet for the second consecutive year in the 4A ranks. That game will be played at 5 p.m. Wednesday, ahead of the 5A game between Lincoln (18-0-1) and Fort Collins (16-2-1). That contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The 3A championship will be a rematch from the regular season, as the teams tied 2-2 on Sept. 10. That is the only blemish on the record for Colorado Springs Christian, which is in the title game for the first time since 2001, when it won its only boys soccer title.
The Lions are paced by a high-powered offense that has amassed 92 goals, and the stingiest defense in the playoffs (nine goals allowed, 12 shutouts). Zac Egeler is the second-leading scorer in 3A with 21 goals, and he has tallied five goals and three assists in the playoffs. Daniel Broas adds balance to the attack, and he has scored once in each playoff game to bring his season total to 12 goals.
Denver Christian, which is in the title game for the third time in four years, counters with a three-headed attack, as Brent Ham, Jesse Montavon and Jesse Ham each have hit double digits in goals scored. Brent Ham leads the Crusaders with 18, while Montavon has 14 and Jesse Ham 12. They have combined for six of Denver Christian’s 12 postseason goals. The Crusaders won the 2007 crown.
It’s probably safe to assume that not many expected Niwot and Rock Canyon to meet again to decide matters. Niwot was on the same side of the bracket with top-seeded and unbeaten Broomfield, but the Cougars avenged a 5-1 regular-season loss to the Eagles by eliminating them 1-0 in the semifinals.
Defense has carried fourth-seeded Niwot in the playoffs, as they have allowed only one goal in the four games (12 overall), while getting timely tallies on offense. Santiago Velez leads the Cougars with 15 goals, and he scored the winner against Broomfield.
Rock Canyon, which beat Niwot 3-0 for the title last season, lost its final two regular-season games against 5A league foes and entered the postseason as the sixth seed. After playing most of its games against 5A competition in the Continental League, the Jaguars have responded in the 4A postseason. Leading scorer Nick Graybeal has scored three of his 10 goals in the playoffs.
Lincoln, the fourth seed in the 5A brackets, also could be considered a surprise. The Lancers were knocked out in the first round last season, but returned a senior core ready to challenge. Lincoln has been stout on defense, having yielded just 19 goals. The offense is highlighted by top finishers Makir Oropeza (24 goals) and Oscar Montoya (18). Lincoln, in the title game for the first time, has only a 2-2 tie to George Washington keeping it from being unbeaten and untied this season.
The surprise label certainly does not apply to Fort Collins. The Lambkins will be playing for the championship for the third time in five years, and they won it in 2005. As with all the top teams, second-seeded Fort Collins is characterized by its defense.
Among the 16 goals surrendered, only three have come in the playoffs. That statistic is all the more impressive considering the Lambkins played in the Front Range League, which had four teams among the final eight, and faced Chatfield and top-seeded Cherry Creek in nonleague contests.
Offensively, Fort Collins has not put up the numbers of its counterpart, as Salvador Gonazles leads the team with 10 goals, five having come in the playoffs, but 13 different players have scored during the season.
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