DENVER — Despite the Silver Creek boys soccer program's consistent quality, a barrier has stood between the Raptors and the state quarterfinals.
A perennial playoff team, the Raptors returned to the postseason this fall. Though injuries and early inconsistencies promised this to be a bit of down season for the team, the Raptors reached the second round of the Class 4A state tournament for the third straight year. Their most recent run, however, came to an end on Tuesday afternoon with a 4-0 loss at Denver North.
"We've been through it all this season," Raptors head coach Rob Johnson said. "We got thin real quick early on but for these guys to bounce back and make it this far, it's really special. We've never gotten past the second round here but we've been there for three years in a row, so it's all about slowly trying to change the mentality here and make sure that they know how good they are and that they're more than capable of going further."
The 14th-seeded Raptors opened the season with a 2-5 record but rebounded to win the Northern League regular-season title. Coming off a 2-1 double-overtime win over George Washington in the first round, the Raptors (10-7) fell behind early on a snowy and rainy afternoon in Denver.
The early deficit forced Silver Creek to press on the offensive, but the third-seeded Vikings (14-1-2) held true to form as the stout defensive club that allowed just six goals in 16 games before Tuesday.
"It's funny how when we break down, we just seem to break down really badly," Johnson said. "I didn't mind the goals because we were trying to score to give ourselves a chance. We just have to be mentally stronger. But I think we'll be OK next year. It was just one of those games where they were the number three seed and had a little chip on their shoulder in a good way, and we played a little bit tentative at times. They came right at us and took advantage of those moments."
Junior Dhani Russell scored both of Silver Creek's goals in the first round.
The Raptors, who have never made it past the Round of 16, have been eliminated in the second round in each of the past two state tournaments, losing to eventual runner-up Centaurus in the second round of last fall's postseason.
The Vikings will play the winner of the second-round game between No. 6 Pueblo Centennial and No. 11 Golden in the quarterfinals on Saturday.