DENVER -- The Fairview soccer team's back line was dominant in Saturday night's game against Denver East, repeatedly dispossessing the Angels' attackers and blocking shot attempts for the entirety of the match.
However, it turned out to be striker Eric Kronenberg who made the biggest defensive play of all.
In the 12th minute the senior forward raced toward East's Marques McDonald as the goalie prepared to make a seemingly routine clearance near the top of the 18-yard box. Kronenberg closed quickly on the keeper and stuck out a leg at the last moment to gain a deflection and send the ball rolling back into the net. The unlikely score was all the Knights needed, as their defense stifled the Angels down the stretch to earn 1-0 win along with a trip to the Class 5A state semifinals.
"There was a back pass towards goal and there were two defenders in front of me but I just figured I'd sprint as hard as I could because we were trying to keep high pressure," Kronenberg said. "It just happened to be the right timing and I kind of got lucky that the ball went back into the goal."
While Fairview head coach Stan Jozwiak may not have drawn the play up, he was more than happy to take a goal any way it came. And the fact that it was his team leader in points who netted the score came as no surprise.
"A hustling play from a great athlete, that's what he brings to the game," Jozwiak said, "That's what he brings to the game. It was the difference maker."
Despite possessing the ball for the majority of the first half, the Knights were unable to garner many great looks at goal. Although they outshot the Angels 8-4 in the first 40 minutes, most of their attempts were ambitious efforts from a distance.
Meanwhile East, the defending Class 5A state champion, was unable to mount any type of offensive momentum in the early stages, as the Knights halted every push they saw. The Angels' best opportunity came in the 34th minute, when a rebound off the gloves of keeper Alan Scheuermann was volleyed just left of the goal by an East striker.
The second half saw more of the same, as Fairview went 34 minutes without allowing a shot at their net. East was able to muster five attempts in the final twelve minutes as it desperately worked to keep its season alive, but none truly threatened the relentless Knights defense.
"Our defense stood up all night. I was so impressed with them in the last 20 minutes when East was pulling out everything they had," Jozwiak said. "We held our composure and we were pretty strong at clearing the ball out of danger."
The Knights nearly sealed the game with a second Kronenberg goal in the 47th minute when the forward received a corner kick in the middle of the box and sent a header screaming toward goal. The ball hit the bottom of the crossbar momentarily seemed to bounce in, sending the crowd and the players on the field into a frenzy. But no goal was signaled and East cleared the ball as play continued.
"From my view it hit the crossbar, went down, came back up into the top of the net of the goal, so we all thought it was in," Kronenberg said. "But I guess the refs weren't in a good position to see it."
The near-goal proved to be inconsequential, as the Knights posted their seventh shutout of the year in convincing fashion. The victory rewards the Knights not only with a spot in the final four of the state tournament, but also a shot at revenge against cross town rival Boulder, which beat Rock Canyon 1-0 Saturday night at Recht field to earn its spot in the semis. The Panthers beat Fairview 2-0 at FHS earlier in the season.
"We are pumped. This is a huge game, exactly what we wanted," Kronenberg said. "Losing to Boulder early on in the season, we really feel we can come back strong and it should be a great game."
The Knights and Panthers will clash Wednesday night, 7 p.m. at Legacy Stadium, site of both Class 5A semifinal matches.
Fairview 1, Denver East 0
At All City Stadium
Fairview (14-3-1) 1 0 -- 1
Denver East (15-3) 0 0 -- 0
Goals (assists) -- Fairview: Eric Kronenberg, 10th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) -- Fairview: Scheuermann: (80-0-4); Denver East McDonald (80-1-4).