AURORA | Mike Menzies is the regular penalty kick taker for the Cherokee Trail boys soccer team for good reason, he knows how to finish.
The senior striker did just that with an opportunity in Wednesday afternoon’s Class 5A boys state soccer second round playoff contest against Cherry Creek at Legacy Stadium, as he converted a chance just 18 seconds into overtime to deliver a 1-0 victory and send the Cougars into the quarterfinals.
Menzies’ team-high 16th goal — which came after senior Ben Garcia was taken down in the goal box shortly after the opening kickoff of overtime — sent sixth-seeded Cherokee Trail into the final eight of the playoffs for the first time since the program moved up to 5A.
“I knew right when I got it I was going to put it in the net and we were going to win the game,” said Menzies, whose shot beat Cherry Creek keeper Jordan Sabatier inside the post and ignited a celebratory mob.
“This is the furthest we’ve ever been, so we’ve made school history,” he added. “We plan to keep going.”
Besides seeking their first trip to the semifinals as well, coach Tori Hardy’s Cougars (14-2-1) also get another crack at Grandview (15-1-1), which dealt them an 8-2 loss in the regular season finale with the Centennial League title on the line. The third-seeded Wolves moved into a Saturday semifinal against Cherokee Trail with a 3-1 win over No. 19 Rangeview.
To get a chance to play in the quarterfinals, the Cougars had to get past a Bruins’ side that they had defeated 3-2 in league play Oct. 9. That game saw all five goals scored in the opening half, but this time neither team was able to put one in the goal in regulation.
The first half featured very few prime scoring opportunities as the teams tested out each other’s strengths and weakness, but things became more dangerous and desperate on both sides during the second half.
Cherry Creek had some prime opportunities, but Cherokee Trail’s defense — with big efforts from seniors Dillon Andrews and Cole Seperich and sophomore Luke Simmons — staved them off.
Senior goalkeeper Luke Eyolfson had to make a few pure reaction saves as well from point blank range — including two from Bryce Loui, whose goal gave Cherry Creek an overtime upset of Ralston Valley in the previous round — to keep the Cougars’ clean sheet.
“It’s just like 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical,” Eyolfson said after his third shutout of the season. “You just have to make sure you keep your head in the game…I trust the guys in front of me and they trust me to make saves.”
While the Cougars didn’t have as much possession as the Bruins, they did have some dangerous chances on the counterattack.
They put pressure on Cherry Creek from the opening kickoff of overtime, as the ball got put out in front of Garcia as he split two defenders and then went down from the contact. The referee awarded the penalty kick try and Menzies buried it even though the goalkeeper reacted correctly to his right.
“I wasn’t surprised because generally we do score early in overtime if we make it to overtime,” Hardy said. “I don’t know why that is, but it’s what we do.”
To a man, Cherokee Trail hoped that Grandview would win the other second round contest so they get a chance to avenge their lopsided league loss.
“We all want Grandview, we want that revenge and to show them what we have,” Menzies said before knowing the result of the Grandview-Rangeview game.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports
(6) CHEROKEE TRAIL 1, (22) CHERRY CREEK 0 (OT)
Score by halves:
Cherry Creek 0 0 0 — 0
Cherokee Trail 0 0 1 — 1
Cherokee Trail — Mike Menzies (penalty kick), 14:42