FORT COLLINS — The calendar says the Class 5A state soccer playoffs don't begin for another few weeks.
For all intents and purposes, they began for the Legacy Lightning on Thursday night at Fossil Ridge.
Coach Luke Meadows' side, starting with the unbeaten and No. 6 ranked SaberCats and closing it out next week with ranked foes in Rocky Mountain (10) and Broomfield (2), took a huge step towards a Front Range League title by beating Fossil Ridge 2-1 on a brisk evening in Fort Collins.
"Can we go get a result in a game that matters?" questioned Meadows, whose team improved to 12-1 and is tied with Rocky Mountain — a 1-0 stunner at Broomfield — at 9-1 atop the FRL.
"Rocky and Broomfield are both championship caliber teams and it comes down to execution."
And in the first half against Fossil Ridge, the Lightning played as clean and crisp a possession game as any coach could have hoped for, yet found themselves trailing 1-0 after a Bella Alessi goal in the fourth minute.
Legacy had its chances in the first half, but SaberCats keeper Vicky Graham was up to the challenge first against Abby Deakin then against Gracie Armstrong. Amber Hurtado also had a clean look on the doorstep, but her turn-and-volley went just wide.
All the work finally paid off midway through the second half and a good dose of luck as well. Junior Randy Heaton, who had yet to score a goal this season, was in the right place at the right time for a fortuitous bounce to her right foot that she was able to finish.
"It felt so good and it just made our energy go up," Armstrong said. "We just wanted another one and we knew we could get it."
Armstrong, the Lightning's leading scorers this season, bagged her 20th in the 70th minute with a 25-yard strike that beat a sprawled out Graham.
"To be honest, I don't remember a lot of the details of it because I was so lost in the moment," she said. "I really wanted one, and I looked up, saw she was off her line, took one dribble past my defender, shot it and it went in the back corner and she didn't even know."
Fossil Ridge (11-1, 8-1) pushed numbers forward to find a late equalizer and their best chance came in the 76th minute when Katie Townsend broke free, but was denied near the top of the box by an oncoming Haley Mackiewicz — who made five second-half saves after rotating with starter Makenna Gottschalk.
"They weren't tested a whole lot today, so when the time came, she did her job and that is what she is there for," Meadows said. "Both goalkeepers we are putting into these big games to get experience for what comes next; just making sure everybody is as ready as they can be."
LEGACY 2, FOSSIL RIDGE 1
At Fossil RidgeLegacy (12-1, 9-1) 0 2—2
Fossil Ridge (11-1, 8-1) 1 0—1
Goals (assists) — Fossil Ridge: Bella Alessi (unassisted), 4th minute; Legacy: Randi Heaton (unassisted), 59th; Gracie Armstrong (Kailee Maness), 70th.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Legacy: Makenna Gottschalk (40-1-0), Halle Mackiewicz (40-0-5); Fossil Ridge: Vicky Graham (80-2-6).