BOULDER — On a chilly Wednesday night in Boulder, the knowledge that it was Halloween wasn't the Fairview boys soccer team's only cause for fright.
Hosting No. 16 Rock Canyon (11-5-1) in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs, the Knights (17-0) twice found themselves knotted in a stalemate with a tough Jaguars team. Not only would one critical goal have ruined the Knights' unbeaten season but it also would have sent them home much earlier than they had anticipated as the tournament's No. 1 overall seed.
But the Knights don't spook easily.
Fairview sophomore Sebastien Mazur alleviated some cause for concern and broke the game's initial scoreless tie by scoring a goal with 27.9 seconds remaining in the first half. Then, with the score once again even late in the contest, senior captain Sajji Singh scored on a free kick with 58 seconds left in the game and the Knights advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory.
"Everyone is focused on the main goal and that helps us keep our focus throughout the game," Singh said. "Throughout the game, now matter what's going on, everyone is locked in and everyone is doing it for each other. We have an overtime win and a last-minute win but this is the playoffs and you've got to get some difficult wins because all the teams are good. We need to work on our finishing and tonight was a tense game but we're happy to be moving on."
With the win, the Knights have now advanced past the Round of 16 in each of the past five seasons. They have reached the quarterfinals or better in five of the past seven seasons and played in the semifinals in three of those years. In 2014, the Knights defeated Rock Canyon in the quarterfinals and are now 2-1 in postseason matchups with the Jaguars since 2011.
Though they are returning to the quarterfinals for the fifth straight year, the Knights' postseason path has been fraught with tense moments this fall. They edged No. 32 Mountain Vista, 1-0 in overtime, in the first round and had to score in the final minute of each half to avoid elimination on Wednesday night.
The Jaguars scored to tie Wednesday's game 1-1 with 19:20 left in the game. Awarded a penalty kick just outside the right corner of the 18-yard box, Singh caught the Jaguars defense off guard as they were still setting up and fired a shot into the far netting while Rock Canyon goalkeeper Will Durbin was still aligning his defensive wall from the near post.
Knights head coach Jeff Frykholm called Singh's game-winning goal, "a heads-up play from one of the most intelligent players in the state." While he would prefer to avoid such lengthy stretches of tension and pressure on his team and spoke to the team postgame about finishing opponents off more convincingly, Frykholm also said he has been blown away by his team's resilience and level-headed nature in the playoffs.
"I have been so impressed with them, to be honest," Frykholm said. "I thought we played one of the best halves in the first half that we've played in a long time. We did everything but put it in the net. Obviously, we need to be better about putting teams away but I'm proud of the way the guys continue to keep pressing and keep working. I maybe even feel the pressure more than they do, it seems like.
"They're great guys, they love each other and they've been together for a long time. We haven't been undefeated before but I don't sense that they're nervous or getting tight. For whatever reason, the ball's just not trickling across the line for us. They just keep their heads and continue to go to work."
Mazur now has three goals on the season and leads the Knights with seven assists. Singh is second on the team with seven goals.
Back at home again on Saturday, the Knights will host No. 8 Arapahoe (14-1-2) for the quarterfinals.
Fairview 2, Rock Canyon 1
At Fairview H.S.Rock Canyon (11-5-1) 0 1 — 1
Fairview (17-0) 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) —Fairview: Sebastien Mazur, 40th minute; Sajji Singh, 80th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fairview: Carter Melton (80-1-5).