Despite finishing with double-digit victories in four of the previous five seasons, the Skyview (Thornton)
boys soccer team had only been rewarded with one home playoff game during that stretch.
That came two years ago, when the Wolverines earned the No. 10 seed. Skyview opened the playoffs with a shootout victory over Centaurus, and then took eventual semifinalist Durango into overtime on the road in the second round before bowing out.
So, it is no small feat that headed into the Class 4A state playoff opener Wednesday, Skyview – one of 16 4A programs out of 70 with an enrollment below 900 students – finds itself with the No. 2 overall seed.
"It is exciting to see your name up there right underneath the No. 1 spot," said Skyview coach Justin Thomas after his team was the only 4A squad to go undefeated during the regular season. "It's just due to all the hard work these kids put in in the offseason."
While the five-team Colorado 7 League doesn't provide the game-to-game challenge that the Pikes Peak League or Northern League might, there is no discounting the fact that Skyview's resume speaks for itself. The Wolverines defeated four teams that earned seeds in the teens, including No. 10 Holy Family (Broomfield)
. Skyview also topped Silver Creek (Longmont)
and Centaurus (Lafayette)
, the latter of which played for the 4A state championship last November.
"With the league we're in, it's necessary for us to create a schedule that is up there with the Northern League teams," Thomas said. "We have to create a difficult schedule outside of our league, and that's something that our athletic director, Susan Gerhart, has done a great job of the last four years. It's getting us those tough opponents so we're battle-tested come late October."
Skyview outscored opponents 73-10 this fall, with three players scoring at least 30 points. Seven players finished with more than 10, led by seniors Jared Ramos
(19 goals, five assists), Bryan Vazquez
(14 goals, two assists) and Brian Uribe
(11 goals, eight assists).
Vazquez and center back Noah Espino-Kennedy
were captains as juniors and again as seniors, and Thomas said the attitude and leadership they bring trickles down to the rest of the team. As for Ramos, Thomas said the senior is one of the best talents he's ever seen as a coach.
"He came in his freshman year and played varsity ever since. He just has an incredible work ethic in the offseason," Thomas said. "I think that really started to pay off this year. He's not the biggest kid, but he's really strong. He just has the ability to finish in front of the net and from outside the 18 like you wouldn't believe."
Junior Brian Fierro
has allowed an average of 0.69 goals a game and has nine shutouts to his credit. Thomas said the squad has employed a defense-by-committee in front of him, where a number of players step in, led by the play of Espino-Kennedy. That's made Fierro's job that much easier.
While Mullen is a tough first-round draw – the Mustangs compete in the 5A/4A Centennial League – Thomas said the chance to play at home is an exciting prospect. The bulk of the upperclassmen were part of the 2016 team that nearly made the third round.
"Seeing that we're the No. 2 seed, that opens a lot of doors," Thomas said. "We're hoping to take that against a tough 31 seed in Mullen. We're ready for them and we're just really looking forward to Wednesday."
The 4A and 2A classifications open the first round Wednesday, and 5A and 3A follow Thursday. With that in mind, here is a brief look at each of the four classifications going into this week's action:Class 5A
1. Fairview (Boulder)
, 2. Boulder
, 3. Grandview (Aurora)
, 4. Denver EastOverview:
Is any team in the state hotter than Fairview at the moment? The Knights ran the table on the
gauntlet that is the Front Range League, along with the entire regular season. The team gave up only three goals in the process, with junior
allowing one score in a team-high 845 minutes of play. Senior Cooper Harmon
scored 15 of the team's 38 goals. … One of the teams the Knights beat is No. 2 Boulder, a 2-1 double-overtime triumph. It was the Panthers' only loss during the regular season. Senior Omar Castruita
and Jesse Bacardi
combined to score 25 goals. … Four of the top seven seeds are from the Front Range League. Legacy (Broomfield)
is seeded fifth, and Fort Collins
seventh. … One year removed from a runner-up finish, Denver East closed the regular season on a 13-game winning streak that included seven shutouts. Junior Zion Wagoner
has 18 goals and 11 assists. … Grandview ended the regular season with an 8-2 victory over No. 6 Cherokee Trail (Aurora)
, a potential quarterfinal opponent.
Upset potential: BroomfieldClass 4A
lost six games during the regular season and is the No. 13 seed, but Jim Davidson's Eagles always rise up during the postseason. The defending state champions could be a looking at a title-game rematch with Denver East in the second round. If the Eagles get to the quarterfinals, league and city rival Legacy could be waiting. Broomfield took the Lightning to overtime before falling in the regular season.
1. Air Academy, 2. Skyview, 3. Denver North, 4. DurangoOverview:
Air Academy's only loss this season came to 5A's second-seeded Boulder. The Kadets ran the table on the Pikes Peak League, allowing only two goals in seven league contests. Junior Thaddaeus Dewing's
21 goals led the team. … Denver North allowed only six goals all season, as senior Bryan Torres
had a GAA of 0.39. The Vikings don't score a lot of goals, but their defense kept them in every game. … The potential for a quarterfinal showdown between fourth-seeded Durango and No. 5 Battle Mountain (Edwards)
is intriguing. The two teams met back in August, a 3-2 double overtime victory for the Demons. Three Durango players finished with at least 11 goals, and the team had an impressive 43 assists on 57 goals. … Regis Groff (Denver)
is making its 4A playoff debut in only its second season. The Fusion competed in the Denver Prep League this fall.
Upset potential: Class 3A
No. 11 Golden
finds itself with an interesting draw. The Demons open with Fort Morgan
, and with a victory would match up against either No. 6 Pueblo Centennial
or a Montrose
team they already defeated. Save for a loss to Evergreen
, Golden played well down the stretch. The team's balance is evident by the fact that 14 players scored at least one goal, but no player scored more than seven. Sophomore Brandon Shull
allowed only eight goals this fall.
1. Atlas Preparatory (Colorado Springs)
, 2. Kent Denver (Englewood)
, 3. Colorado Academy (Denver)
, 4. Roaring Fork (Carbondale)
In only its third year of varsity play, Atlas Preparatory went 14-0-1 this fall, the only blemish a tie with Colorado Springs Christian. The Gryphons allowed only seven goals, and junior Lamario Nisbeth
punched in 23 goals. … Kent Denver also went 14-0-1 and is the No. 2 seed again. Juniors Max Hewitt
and Rawson Welch
combined to score 21 goals. … Third-seeded Colorado Academy, the runner-up last fall, proved it can win close games. The Mustangs won four games in overtime this season, three of which went to a second overtime. … Senior Aidan Sloan
led Roaring Fork with 17 goals and eight assists, one year after the Rams pulled a pair of upsets in reaching the quarterfinals.
Upset potential:Class 2A
Would it really be an upset for the defending state champions to make another run? Probably not, but Liberty Common (Fort Collins)
enters the postseason as the No. 9 seed. Last fall the Eagles were the No. 8 seed but stormed their way to the school's first championship. An overtime loss to Faith Christian (Arvada)
in the regular-season finale cost Liberty Common a higher seed, but the team's draw has it on the other side of the bracket from the Metro League's top three teams. Seniors Michael Yeh
and Zach Harker
each finished in double-digits in goals and assists.
1. Crested Butte
, 2. Fountain Valley (Colorado Springs)
, 3. Dawson School (Lafayette)
, 4. Denver ChristianOverview:
This is the inaugural year for 2A boys soccer, meaning the winner will earn a place in state history. … Of the top four seeds, only Fountain Valley and Dawson School were in the 3A postseason a year ago. Dawson actually won its first-round game after blanking Manitou Springs 1-0, only to fall to Colorado Springs Christian in the second round. … Crested Butte (12-1-2) had its only loss come to 3A Salida, which is the No. 5 seed in that classification. Senior Tommy Linehan
scored a team-high 16 goals; junior Dagan Schwartz
and sophomore Gabi Marmolejo
had nine each. … Fountain Valley's four losses each came to 3A playoff teams, including a hard-fought 3-2 loss to No. 3 Colorado Academy earlier this month. Senior Aly Kassam
leads the team with 28 goals. … Dawson dropped four of its first five games to 3A playoff teams, but finished the regular season 9-0-1.
tied Crested Butte up 1-1 early in the year, though the Demons did fall to the Titans the second time around. Junior Robert Beserra
scored 20 goals this fall, and the team has some playoff experience after earning the No. 6 seed in 3A a year ago.