Boys Soccer: Prince, Smoky Hill top Pine Creek to make 5A semifinals

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AURORA | Walter Prince’s head is hard to miss.

The sophomore midfielder used his bald pate to score the biggest goal of the season for the Smoky Hill boys soccer team, when he headed in a pass from sophomore Kevin Del Mazo late in the second half to give the fourth-seeded Buffaloes a 1-0 home victory over No. 12 Pine Creek in a Class 5A boys soccer state quarterfinal.

Smoky Hill (14-1-3) advanced to the 5A semifinals for the first time since 2007 and coach Kersten Mullan’s team will face Centennial League rival and ninth-seeded Cherry Creek — a 2-1 double-overtime winner over Eaglecrest — at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Legacy Stadium. No. 6 Boulder and No. 10 Fairview meet in the other semifinal.

“I have a big, bald head and it’s nice for that stuff; it comes in useful,” Prince said of his fifth goal of the season and first game-winner.

“I remember pain because I got sandwiched in between two defenders, but I saw it go top corner and then there were five seconds of silence. I just ran over to the fans. It felt great.”

Playing on their favorite field — the refurbished “Swamp” — in front of a crowd packed the length of the field, the Buffaloes pushed and pushed against a defense that held strong for 70 minutes under the pressure of Prince, Del Mazo, Jeff Gillis and others. The Eagles (13-5) held strong and turned away a number of Smoky Hill chances on corner kicks and free kicks.

The game remained a scoreless stalemate until a little more than 10 minutes remained when Del Mazo drove in on the wing, took a touch to the inside — which faked out a Pine Creek defender and gave him a clear passing lane to loft a ball in the box.

“I expect that all the time; if you watch Kevin, he does that on the usual,” said Prince, who redirected the ball high past Eagles goalkeeper David Meyer as he rose between two Pine Creek defenders.

The Smoky Hill defense did the rest, as the backline and goalkeeper Grayson Heath, who made four saves, posted their third consecutive postseason shutout and sixth overall on the season.

That’s the way Mullan likes it, as she has total confidence in Hamilton Pennywell, Kevin Edgar, Colton Ladyga and others in the back.

“Our defense has not been scored on in the run of play; if you look at all the goals we’ve allowed this whole season (16), they’ve all come on set pieces,” Mullan said. “Of course that’s a weakness, but there has not been a team that has been able to run through our backs. Our team knows that and we build from there.”

The Buffaloes are now set to face a, 11-5-2 Cherry Creek team they beat 3-1 on Oct. 11. Neither team has lost since then.

“The journey continues; I think we made it harder on ourselves than it should have been, but this team just keeps the faith,” Mullan said. “They just keep chipping away, chipping away, chipping away and it happens. These guys just believe that they are not going to lose, that’s what it boils down to.”

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555

(4) SMOKY HILL 1, (12) PINE CREEK 0

Score by halves:

Pine Creek   0  0 — 0

Smoky Hill   0  1 — 1

SCORING

Second half

Smoky Hill — Walter Prince (Kevin Del Mazo), 70th minute