NIWOT — The soccer history between the Niwot and Legacy programs certainly isn't long in the tooth, but with the teams scrimmaging each other annually over the past few years, there's been an opportunity for coaches to build up relationships and, perhaps, for players to gain a little dissonance with each other.
On Thursday afternoon at Niwot, a rare in-season meeting produced quite a fantastic show of the sport — an overly physical battle that had just enough touch of grace to produce some highlight-reel goals on the scoreboard.
And for the second time this week, the Legacy Lightning were able to rally from behind to put away an opponent in overtime, this time using a goal from the persistent Hunter Hance just three minutes into the first extra time and emerge with a 3-2 cross-classification win.
It wasn't the start that Hance expected, but in terms of following through, it was the finish he hoped for his 5A Lightning teammates against one of the upper-echelon 4A squads around.
"I think we came out and thought we were going to play better off the start, and we didn't ... but by the end of the first half we kind of got our stuff together," Hance said after the win, which saw him score the final two goals of the game. "We came out strong second half. We stuck through it, usually for 80 minutes but it's been more this week. Keep your body ready, and sticking with it."
The ratings percentage index for both teams will likely receive a boost when all is said and done, but for Legacy the win put it at 4-0 before heading off to league play.
On Tuesday, coach Tony Romano's team ousted Ralston Valley 2-1 in double-overtime. Two days later, and it was another show of character on the part of his team that led to a dominant second half, finally getting a tying goal in the 68th minute when Hance had space for a settle-and-shoot score off a perfect feed from Blake Hansen at the end line, and then a less-than-flashy marker from Hance off a rebound in the 83rd minute for the winner.
"Not only have they gone extra minutes twice this week, but they've also in both cases come from behind to do it, so that's just something I'm very proud of," Romano said. "Niwot's going to win a lot of games ... but I'm very happy with the way we worked."
The fight was on from the start, and Niwot (2-2-1)'s tough-to-stop combination of Manny Tapia and Jonathan Jimenez-Flores once again burned another opponent — this time twice within three minutes on Tapia goals — for a 2-0 advantage for the hosts.
Niwot coach Stephen Dimet noticed Legacy kind of get back to the form he expected after that point, and the Lightning were able to knock it back to 2-1 with a Danny Marks finish in the 32nd minute. Hance had a chance to possibly tie the game late in the first half and then again early in the second, but his third good look was as much a staredown with the net as one can ever expect — he didn't miss and made it 2-2.
Niwot goalkeeper Mario Munoz prevented an early game-winner for Legacy with a tremendous save in the final 30 seconds of regulation, but it was a long ball in on goal just a few minutes later that saw Hance crash the net and leap on a missed catch from the senior keeper.
Munoz still had eight saves for the game.
"This is the best that we've played them in the three years that we've (met), and I thought we played well enough to win the game," Dimet said. "Little mistakes cost us, but like I told the guys, we're in the middle of the most brutal week possible and we're showing that we belong with these teams."
Niwot will try and bounce back Saturday at home against 4A No. 2-ranked Air Academy. Legacy will travel to Rocky Mountain next Wednesday.
Legacy 3, Niwot 2 (OT)
At Niwot HSLegacy111—3Niwot200—2
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Manny Tapia (Jonathan Jimenez-Flores assist), 14th; Niwot: Tapia (Jimenez-Flores), 17th; Legacy: Danny Marks (Colten Armstrong), 32nd; Legacy: Hunter Hance (Blake Hansen), 68th; Legacy: Hunter Hance (Armstrong), 83rd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Niwot: Mario Munoz (83-3-8); Legacy: Brandon Hansen (40-2-4), Ivan Castillo (43-0-3).