BROOMFIELD — Having expanded to include a dozen teams for the 2014 season, the Front Range League represents by far and away the largest conference in Class 5A boys soccer this year. It makes sense then a division that big would have plenty of competition for state playoff spots come tournament time.
That has indeed been the case, as no less than eight of the FRL squads entered Thursday hoping to qualify for the postseason. And with only four automatic qualifiers from the conference guaranteed slots in the bracket, each teams' regular season finale carried huge implications.
The importance of the evening was certainly felt in the air Thursday at Broomfield High, where the Eagles hosted Monarch. As could have been expected, the meeting resulted in an intensely physical battle that was competitive until the final horn. But buoyed a sizeable crowd on parents' night and an early lead, Broomfield was able to hang on for a 2-1 victory, securing an automatic berth in the postseason in the school's first year in competing at 5A.
"It feels great, and it's a big accomplishment for us," Broomfield's Luke Cangilla said. "If we didn't win tonight we might not have made it in, so it was a big win and I'm excited."
Though the Eagles had several opportunities in the opening minutes, the hosts weren't quite able to complete that final pass to create an open shot at the net. The solution? Toss it in there.
That's what Broomfield ultimately did after earning a throw-in close to the MoHi end line 15 minutes in. Junior Porter Milner launched a massive throw in from the right side of the field toward the far post, sailing it over much of the Monarch defense, including its goalkeeper.
The throw found teammate Joe Clouse all alone, and the senior headed the ball in from just outside the goal line to give the home team a 1-0 lead.
Milner seemed to set up a nearly identical goal in the 23rd minute, again throwing the ball into the middle of the action. Though the ball did eventually find the net, it was ultimately ruled that obstruction had occurred, negating the score.
"I thought we got on the end of those really well tonight," said Milner, who has assisted in similar fashion multiple times this year. "We attacked it, got a head on it, and got a goal out of it."
Broomfield did add another score in the 48th minute, counter-attacking following a Monarch corner kick. Speedy sophomore Armando Ocampo found tons of open field in front of him and carried the ball before sliding a pass to his fellow attacker Cangilla, who got a foot to the ball before the charging Coyotes keeper to go up 2-0.
"Jim (Davidson) told us we needed a striker goal tonight," Cangilla said of his coach. "We've been kind of struggling up there. It was a counter and I just put it away first time."
The Coyotes did not go out quietly though, as junior Thomas Alder tracked down a long ball from Zach Langer in the 56th minute and chipped a shot over the outstretched hands of Eagles keeper Michael Genge. And though the visitors continued to apply pressure to the BHS goal from there out, they were unable to find the equalizer.
The loss almost certainly means Monarch is eliminated from contention for an automatic berth, as the Coyotes can now place no higher than seventh in the league. But despite the defeat, MoHi exited the pitch heads held high, as the young squad seems to know how bright its future can be.
"Overall improvement, we've grown so much since being freshmen and sophomores," Alder said. "We have so much more confidence in ourselves now going against these teams. And it's just been awesome to win some games this year."
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Broomfield 2, Monarch 1
At Broomfield HS
Monarch (6-4-4, 3-4-4) 0 1 — 1
Broomfield (8-4-3, 6-3-2) 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) — Broomfield: Joe Clouse (Porter Milner), 20th minute; Luke Cangilla (Armando Ocampo), 48th minute; Monarch: Thomas Alder (Zach Langer), 56th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Evan Rice (80-2-4); Broomfield: Michael Gegne (80-1-5).