Seven of Aurora’s 10 boys soccer teams made last season’s Class 5A state playoffs and that number could rise in 2012.
Optimism abounded at programs all over the city coming into the season and has been borne out in the first few weeks.
Gateway has made it to the Class 5A playoffs for the past two seasons and coach Olaf Siverson’s team posted an Aurora-best 14 victories in 2011 and swept the series with the other district teams.
Siverson hopes that success drives his current team, which is led by senior midfielder Miguel Mendoza, to take the next step after it won a playoff game a year ago.
Mendoza, who had nine goals and five assists last season, is like another coach on the field for the Olys in addition to high level skills. With senior David Hernandez and junior Joseph Arriaga with the Mendoza in the midfield, Gateway’s offense could remain dynamic.
Defensively, the loss of stalwart David Duarte will have an impact, but senior Cristian Valdez is now in control and the Olys have an experienced goalkeeper in Alan Garcia.
Aurora Central, Hinkley and Rangeview all qualified for the 5A state playoffs last season and will be trying to repeat the feat, although only four postseason berths are available this season out of the EMAC and defending league champion Adams City is in the mix.
The Olys, Trojans and Raiders all were unbeaten in their first three contests of the season.
The Centennial League looks as tough as ever, especially with Cherokee Trail’s rise early in 2012.
Coach Jeff Miller’s Cougars have won their first five games of the season, easily eclipsing their three wins of last season that were the fewest in Aurora.
Miller believes much of this season’s early success can be attributed to the fact that his 13 returning letterwinners played a grueling schedule last season that included six of 5A’s top 10 teams.
The Cougars have been stout defensively in 2012, allowing just two goals to the first four opponents while scoring 20 — including at least one from 11 players.
Senior goalkeeper Devin Reimer has three shutouts already.
Eaglecrest snuck into the playoffs at the end of last season with a late run and the momentum has carried into 2012, as coach Greg Watts’ team is 4-1 out of the gate.
Seniors Ben Demming, Andrew Martinez and Armando Perez have multiple playoff experiences to draw on, which Watts hopes will help the Raptors finish games better than last season, when they let several results slip away.
Grandview also has returning experiences, as coach Brian Wood has eight holdovers from 2011, despite losing 12 players to graduation and two to Developmental Academy teams.
Midfield play will be key for the Wolves, who are fortified by experienced senior Seth Gordon and junior Jake Smith. Gordon had six goals and a pair of assists last year.
Up top, senior forward Chang Yang is Grandview’s returning leading scorer with seven goals.
Overland is under the direction of Wilmer Barrera, a former Grandview assistant, who is hoping to coax more from the Trailblazers than the seven wins of 2011.
Regis Jesuit advanced farther in last season’s playoffs than any other team, as the Raiders went 12-3-3 and made a dramatic run to the quarterfinals before they were edged by Rock Canyon.
Former assistant Rick Wolf takes over the head job from Chris Walsweer, who is an assistant.
Regis Jesuit has a strong senior core led by seniors Christian Naes — who had seven goals in 2011 — and Ian Shelton, who had two decisive goals in the team’s playoff run, plus juniors such as Mitch Rossi.
Vista PEAK joins varsity play for the first time as part of the Colorado 7 conference, and coach Jason Elliott expects to compete.
Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at email@example.com or 303-750-7555
2012 AURORA BOYS SOCCER
Key dates — Regular sason ends: Oct. 19; ; First round playoffs: Oct. 24; Round of 16: Oct. 29; Quarterfinals: Nov. 3; Semifinals: Nov. 7; Championship game: Nov. 10 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Aurora 2011 records: Gateway 14-3 (made 5A playoffs); Regis Jesuit 12-3-3 (made 5A playoffs); Rangeview 11-5-1 (made 5A playoffs); Hinkley 10-5-1 (made 5A playoffs); Overland 7-5-3; Grandview 7-7-3 (made 5A state playoffs); Aurora Central 7-8-1 (made 5A state playoffs); Smoky Hill 5-9-1; Eaglecrest 4-9-3 (made 5A state playoffs); Cherokee Trail 3-11-1
Aurora 2012 boys soccer players to watch: Jason Carney, Vista PEAK, jr.; Carlos Castro, Hinkley, jr.; Mario Castro, Hinkley, jr.; Jerdan Daniels, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Walter Delgado, Vista PEAK, jr.; Kevin Del Mazo, Smoky Hill, soph.; Ben Demming, Eaglecrest, sr.; Jose Elias, Vista PEAK, soph.; Joe Finn, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Freddy Fragozo, Aurora Central, jr.; Alan Garcia, Gateway, sr.; Jeff Gillis, Smoky Hill, sr.; Seth Gordon, Grandview, sr.; Luis Guel, Vista PEAK, soph.; Edgar Guzman, Aurora Central, jr.; David Hernandez, Gateway, sr.; Reuel Isaac, Hinkley, jr.; Colton Ladyga, Smoky Hill, soph.; Crystian Madera, Vista PEAK, jr.; Andrew Martinez, Eaglecrest, sr.; Jordan McGrath, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Miguel Mendoza, Gateway, sr.; Brayan Molina, Overland, sr.; Christian Naes, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Hamilton Pennywell, Smoky Hill, sr.; Armando Perez, Eaglecrest, sr.; Mike Prichard, Eaglecrest, soph.; Walter Prince, Smoky Hill, soph.; Alex Reichler, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Devin Reimer, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jashua Rodriguez, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jacob Rodriguez, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Mitch Rossi, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Omar Sandoval, Eaglecrest, jr.; Drew Schmidt, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Ian Shelton, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Jake Smith, Grandview, jr.; Cristian Valadez, Gateway, sr.; Alfredo Velasquez, Vista PEAK, soph.; Connor Walsh, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Marcos Wolde, Rangeview, soph.; Chang Yang, Grandview, sr.; Ruben Zuniga, Rangeview, sr.