Tuesday morning's initial release of the ratings percentage index in boys soccer pretty much confirmed what many people know about the Front Range League this year.
Not only is it likely to produce a state championship contender or two, but the RPI also showed the league itself would give any other conference a run for its money as far as depth.
Among those top-tier teams, Monarch was perhaps the big surprise entering Tuesday night's game at Fairview — a clash that presented MoHi head coach Balen Arenas his first chance to match wits with FHS coach Jeff Frykholm just weeks after the two were sharing ideas with each other.
While the Coyotes proved worthy of their No. 10 RPI, a late second half goal from the hosts broke a stalemate and gave Fairview an all-important 1-0 win to continue its undefeated start in league.
Joshua Kim's left-footed slam from 25 yards out in the 72nd minute was the difference, though for Fairview (No. 12 RPI) the tides started to turn in the second half with a few narrow misses.
"They're super organized and have a great goalkeeper, and I was kind of frustrated with our guys first half for not playing our style, our rhythm, our tempo," said Frykholm, whose team improved to 6-1 but 4-0 in the FRL. "But I'm proud of the way they came out second half and immediately started to sustain some pressure and knock the ball in. We were a little impatient first half, but second half we controlled and moved farther into their end."
Both teams have built around their defenses — the Coyotes (5-1-1) entered Tuesday with a season-long shutout streak of more than 400 minutes while Fairview had allowed but four scores all season.
Needless to say, any chance to score for either team put the crowd on edge.
After a tight-to-the-vest first half which saw just a single shot on goal for each side — and certainly nothing dangerous — Fairview started to pick up the pace as soon as the 50th minute when Sajji Singh's free kick from 40 yards out had to be pushed up and over the bar by Monarch goalie Hank Dalle-Molle. On the ensuing corner kick, Dalle-Molle had to make another save on an Eli Norbut shot, and the Knights seemed to fuel themselves off those chances for the remainder of the game.
Myles Ellis followed up Fairview's best chances to that point with a sequence of three shots between the 65th and 67th minutes that put pressure on Monarch, and the Knights finally broke through when Kim settled a ball on the right side of the pitch, drove left parallel to the goal and unleashed.
"We can't take anything away from Monarch because they've done a great job and bought in to what they want to do," Kim said of his second goal of the year. "They worked hard and we worked hard, but we got a few shots and were able to finish one.
"Just seeing my guys around me work that hard, I just want to work as hard as them and with them."
Though most of the action had taken place on Fairview's offensive side during the second half, Knights goalkeeper Noah Williams was ready for a diagonal cross into the box in the 78th minute that represented Monarch's best chance to equalize.
Fairview finished with six shots on goal to Monarch's two — but MoHi defender Blake Barber was one Coyotes player who felt they proved a lot to themselves on Tuesday despite the result.
"We'll come back hard and strong and not let this get us down or anything," Barber said. "For not having a lot of technical work as a team during the summer, and for pretty much starting on everything week one of school, we're building and haven't even begun to peak."
Fairview 1, Monarch 0
At Fairview HSMonarch (5-1-1, 2-1-1)00—0Fairview (6-1, 4-0)01—1
Goals (assists) —Fairview: Joshua Kim (Sajji Singh assist), 72nd minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Monarch: Hank Dalle-Molle (80-1-6); Fairview: Carter Melton (40-0-1), Noah Williams (40-0-1).