LAFAYETTE —Niwot forward Jonathan Jimenez-Flores provided the early lift for his team — a deep fly from 45 yards out that ricocheted in. And from there, keeper Mario Munoz and his backline kept things grounded.
It was just the balance the Cougars were searching for in what has been an up-and-down season.
Jimenez-Flores scored in each half, Manny Tapia added his team-leading 11th goal late, and Munoz & Co. held the high-powered offense from Centaurus scoreless for the first time this season in the Cougars' 3-0 win at Spangenberg Field on Tuesday night.
"We've lost four games by one and I know it's been frustrating for the guys," Niwot coach Stephen Dimit said. "We needed a game to get back on track."
In a rematch of last year's semifinals — in which Centaurus won 2-0 — Niwot needed no added motivation in what turned into a highly emotional and physical league game.
The Cougars (6-4-1, 2-1 4A Northern), who received one point in this week's 4A CHSAANow poll and is 16th in RPI, scored early and added two more in the second half. The Warriors (6-3, 2-1), the No. 4 team in the poll and fifth team in RPI, were shut out for the first time since losing last year's state title game 1-0 to Air Academy.
"I think it was a mental game we lost," said Centaurus coach Lee Stanley, whose team was without captain Connor Stephan (ankle) and lost Raudel Manjarrez in the first half to injury. "Once we get behind we're chasing it and I don't think we have the mental toughness to do without some team leadership that we were missing tonight."
Jimenez-Flores made it 1-0 midway through the opening half when his lob into the box appeared to deflect off a Centaurus defender before going into the net. He added his second of the game and eighth of the season in the 59th minute on a nifty move inside the box followed by a low-lining shot into the opposite corner.
It was his first multi-goal effort since he had three in a 6-1 win over Brighton to open the year.
"This one means a lot since they beat us twice last year," Jimenez-Flores said.
The Warriors' three-game winning streak ended. Munoz, a few posts and a couple near misses made sure of that.
In the first half, Jesus Garcia had his expert free kick from just outside the box pushed aside on an airborne save from Munoz. And moments later, Max Vali nailed the inside of the left post.
Then in the final minutes, Christian Nunez launched a searing free kick on net that Munoz corralled deep.
"We were working all offseason and looking for our revenge against this team," said Munoz, who had 15 saves.
On the other side, Sanchez stopped four shots and kept Niwot off the board early in the opening half thanks to solid play.
The junior keeper charged Tapia, who was at the top right of the box, and cut off his angle on net to force a shot just wide. A few minutes later, Sanchez dropped down to corral an on-point shot from Gonzales.
Niwot finally found net, though. Tapia capped off the night in the 71st minute when he headed a corner between Sanchez and a defender to make it 3-0.
"I think we can build a bunch of momentum from this game," Munoz said. "Just keep on cruising down the season and into the postseason."
Brent W. New: , firstname.lastname@example.org and @brentwnew
NIwot 3, Centaurus 0
At Spangenberg FieldNiwot (6-4-1)12—3Centaurus (6-3)00—0
Goals (assists) —Niwot: Jonathan Jimenez-Flores (unassisted) 19th minute; Niwot: Jimenez-Flores (Austin Borncamp) 59th; Niwot: Manny Tapia (Keegan Stobbe) 71st.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Niwot: Mario Munoz (80-0-15); Centaurus: Parker Sanchez (80-3-4).