BROOMFIELD — Jefferson Academy coach Matt Cassell logged some serious time on Google this week.
As the Jaguars prepared for their Class 3A opening round game against William Smith — a two-year old school from Aurora — scouting became a bit of a chore.
No statistics were found, so Cassell looked up each player on the Eagles roster one by one and came across some interesting material. As it turns out their best player, Hajrudin Karasalihovic, is a member of the Bosnian national U-17 team and during his absence this season was the only time they lost games.
Cassell, called the Eagles maybe the best No. 27 seed to ever make the tournament and the Jags had to work for everything in their 3-1 victory on Friday night.
"I'm super impressed with what they've put together in two years," Cassell said. "We knew coming in they only lost a few games, they hadn't been shut out and that they were talented."
While the individual on-the-ball talent was good for Williams Smith, what the Eagles lacked was the depth and speed to match the Jaguars.
It took some time but Jefferson Academy finally broke the scoring ice in the 28th minute. Brandon Leeper lined up a direct free kick from just over 25-yards out and picked out a spot on the far post's upper corner that beat Eagles goalie Gonzalo Arenas.
"Our game plan was to come out and put them under pressure, try to dispossess them and really set the stage in the first 20 minutes," Cassell said. "I'm not convinced they have been under pressure like that, so that's what we wanted to see. Let's test them and see how they respond."
Just three minutes later, speedy Jefferson Academy senior forward Lucas Almeida bagged what would amount to the game-winner. The Eagles got sloppy on defense in front of Arenas and Almeida was able to slip behind and score.
Almeida got No. 2 midway though the second half and a cheeky little chip from the top of the box over the head of Arenas, who was trying to back pedal after making an initial save.
"It was definitely lucky, but I got my foot on it," Almeida said. "It had a lot of backspin on it."
William Smith would get on the board in the final five minutes. The Eagles crashed the net, literally, and Marlon Morales paid the price for his tally, hitting the post hard.
Almeida and Co. got a chance to watch their second-round opponent, Basalt, take down Denver Christian 4-2 in the first game and they took some mental notes on the Longhorns.
"We are excited about tomorrow and the biggest thing is we know a lot more about tomorrow compared to what we knew today," said Almeida, whose team will kickoff against Basalt at 1 p.m. "I'm really glad we got today out of the way."
JEFFERSON ACADEMY 3, WILLIAM SMITH 1
At Jefferson AcademyWilliam Smith (8-4) 0 1 — 1
Goals (assists) — Jefferson Academy: Brandon Leeper (unassisted), 28th; Lucas Almeida (unassisted), 31st; Almeida (unasissted); William Smith: Marlon Morales (unassisted), 76th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — William Smith: Gonzalo Arenas (80-3-4); Jefferson Academy: Eric Strauss (80-1-4).