GREENWOOD VILLAGE | In the rugged world of Centennial League boys soccer, sometimes a “mule’s hair” is the only difference.
That was the case Saturday in the Class 5A state quarterfinal between No. 9 Cherry Creek and No. 17 Eaglecrest, as the Bruins took advantage of a small window of opportunity in double overtime for a 2-1 victory over the Raptors in a hard-fought battle between league rivals at Stutler Bowl.
Kyle Ericson took a precise pass from Miguel Jaime in front of the Eaglecrest goal and put the ball into the net six minutes into the second extra session to send Cherry Creek into Wednesday’s semifinals, where the Bruins (11-5-2) will take on another Centennial League team — No. 4 Smoky Hill — at 5 p.m. at Legacy Stadium. The Buffaloes (14-1-3) downed No. 12 Pine Creek 1-0.
No. 6 Boulder and No. 10 Fairview play in the other semifinal.
“It was a heavyweight fight and our number was called,” said Raptors coach Greg Watts, whose team saw an end to its five-game winning streak — which included a 6-0 rout of top-seeded Adams City in the second round — and finished the season 12-5-1 overall.
“You have to give credit to Creek. We were going back and forth, back and forth and then Miggy did what he had to do. They found some space as big as a mule’s hair and they capitalized. What can you do? It’s just the nature of the beast.”
The teams tied 3-3 during Centennial League play and they found themselves deadlocked again in the 61st minute of regulation after Eaglecrest’s Nelson Merino finished a pass from Symon Fabbricatore to counter a goal for the Bruins by Jaime five minutes earlier.
It remained that way through the final 20 minutes of regulation and 20-plus minutes of overtime play, though the dynamic Fabbricatore — who finished with a goal and five assists in three playoff games — Omar Sandoval and Andrew Martinez gave Eaglecrest a few good chances as they pushed the pace.
On the other end of the field, Raptors defenders sacrificed their bodies to prevent Jaime from putting shots on frame and were successful until the second overtime, when the patient striker got deep with the ball and slipped it across the goal box to Ericson, who punched it past Eaglecrest goalkeeper Blend Avdili.
Avdili saved eight of the 10 shots he faced.
“It’s hard, obviously, but I think I’m satisfied,” said Martinez, one of eight seniors on the Eaglecrest roster. “I think coming from a team sophomore year that went to the second round of the playoffs to a team that I didn’t even know would make the playoffs and to do what we did. I’m really proud of how everybody stepped up.
“This will help build the younger guys up in the next one or two years. I can’t wait to see what they do in the future.”
While disappointed, Watts couldn’t argue with the effort his players gave for 101 minutes in a classic Centennial League battle.
“Nobody can say they let the team down, that they didn’t give 100 percent, that they didn’t work hard or leave it all on the field,” Watts said. “All of those things. It could have easily been us that scored that goal. We had our chances, but it’s one of those things. We have everything to be proud of.”
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555
(9) CHERRY CREEK 2, (17) EAGLECREST 1 (2OT)
Score by halves:
Eaglecrest 0 1 0 0 — 1
Cherry Creek 0 1 0 1 — 2
Cherry Creek — Miguel Jaime, 56th minute
Eaglecrest — Nelson Merino (Symon Fabbricatore), 61st minute
Cherry Creek — Kyle Ericson (Jaime), 101st minute