BOULDER — In a most literal sense, Alex Ray was tested from beginning to end on Wednesday night. In at least one instance, it came from his own teammate as the Fairview Knights were battling the Grandview Wolves in a second round playoff game.
Wyatt Dessell's clearing attempt in the final minute of regulation might have given Ray the biggest scare of the entire evening during Fairview's 2-1 Class 5A win at the Fairview High field, especially after the FHS defense began to lock down Wolves sophomore and 16-goal scorer Rhys DeSota.
All could be forgiven, though, after Ray made a play in the midst of a desperate scramble by Grandview, and the Knights were able to hold on and advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday.
It was an exclamation point to a back-and-forth game decided on a pair of second-half goals from Casey Munsch and Andre Miller, another postseason performance that saw Fairview finally able to finish in the second half.
"I'd like to see us score an early goal and coast from there, but it never happens how you like it to," said Munsch, whose goal in the 48th minute broke a scoreless tie. "The first half we were a little slow, and that sometimes happens with our team, but second half we got the momentum going, and everyone's pushing to get those goals.
"I think we did really well defensively. They had a sophomore, a really strong player we'd heard a lot about, and we knew he was going to give us some trouble. We just had to focus on not letting them break us down."
The game lived up to a No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup as Fairview's possession was negated by Grandview's quick, blink-and-you'd-miss-it scoring chances. But the Fairview defense, as they have the entire way during an eight-game win streak, played a structured game and focused on stopping DeSota.
Not that DeSota, Grandview's leading scorer, didn't have a couple of shots as the teams were getting introduced. In fact, Ray had to make a pair of body-block saves on hard DeSota shots 9 and 22 minutes in, Grandview's best chances in the first half of play.
From there, DeSota was not much of a factor.
The Knights' offense was crisp throughout, and Munsch and Alex Weseman nearly had Fairview up early — with Weseman nailing the near post in the 27th minute. The Knights generated seven first-half corner kicks, too.
All of that spilled over into a great second half start, and Andy Vaughn was able to chip a ball to Munsch right up the middle of the field in the 48th minute, a goal where Munsch still had to make one defender miss him before knocking it past goalie Taran Stafford.
It did not take more than a minute before the Knights made it 2-0. From the top of the 18-yard box, Luis Flores sent a ball soaring to the back side, and Miller was able to settle it, turn and fire to the near post.
Austin Fisher made it 2-1 in the 60th minute on a play that seemed to come out of nowhere, and the Wolves nearly tied it up on a crafty shot by Jorge Rangel from on top of the goal box in the 71st minute that skimmed over the bar.
In the final minute, Dessell sent a clear attempt high into the air and on a backward arc right for Ray. The goalie had to make a play on that, then needed active hands on two more legitimate bounces in the box to force a corner kick.
The Knights' defense finally managed a clean clear, and relished the victory.
"It seemed like sketchy goalkeeping to me," joked Ray, who finished with five saves. "To get this far, to be on a (eight)-game win streak, we're feeling pretty good."
"That was an exciting game, a lot of end-to-end action and goalkeepers making some great plays," head coach Stan Jozwiak said. "I'm proud of our kids for hanging in there.
"It was anybody's game to the end."
The Knights will be on the road Saturday for the first time this postseason, taking on No. 1 Rock Canyon in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
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FAIRVIEW 2, GRANDVIEW 1
At Fairview HS
Grandview (11-5-1) 0 1 — 1
Fairview (12-5) 0 2 — 2
Goals (assists) — Fairview: Casey Munsch (Andy Vaughn assist), 48th minute; Fairview: Andre Miller (Luis Flores), 49th minute; Grandview: Austin Fisher (unassisted), 60th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Grandview: Taran Stafford (80-2-4); Fairview: Alex Ray (80-1-5).