LAFAYETTE — Worried about not being able to make the playoffs, the Centaurus boys soccer team responded by stunning previously unbeaten Niwot 3-1 on Thursday in Northern League action.
The Warriors were in danger of falling out of the playoff picture as they had to forfeit both a league and non-league victory earlier this year for using an ineligible player.
“We didn’t get off to the best start of the season,” said Centaurus senior forward Luke Niccolls, who had two assists and a goal. “But hopefully we’ll pick it up now and go to the playoffs and do some damage this season. We knew we had to come out of here with a win.”
Centaurus improved to 4-6 overall and 2-2 in league, while Niwot dropped to 6-1-1 and 2-1. The top four teams in the Northern League qualify for the Class 4A state tournament.
Each Centaurus player barely touched the ball more than once to create a fast-tempo match. Their quick passing set up two goals in the first 10 minutes.
Niccolls fed a through ball senior forward Jesus Ocampo, who chased it down in the left corner and worked his way toward Niwot’s goal, firing off a shot that snuck into the upper left corner less than seven minutes after kickoff.
Niwot hadn’t given up a goal in its four previous games and had allowed only three goals all year prior to the Centaurus match.
“They wanted it,” Niwot coach Rob Johnson said. “We showed up and thought, ‘We’re Niwot and we can do whatever we want.’ And they went right at us and put us in a hole.”
Less than two minutes later, very nearly the same play worked again as Niccolls sent a through ball up the middle. Ocampo beat his defender to the ball and headed the ball over Niwot keeper Josh Watt, who was charging on the play.
Ocampo and Watt collided as the ball bounced in the goal, knocking Watt out of the game for the rest of the first half and leaving Ocampo with a bump above his eye.
“All I thought about was I had to reach the ball first before the keeper,” Ocampo said. “I just looked for a header and it went in.”
Niwot got back into the match with 22 minutes, 19 seconds left to play when the Cougars scored off a free kick. The kick wasn’t cleared out of the Centaurus goal box area and Niwot senior Tommy Hoffman collected the loose ball and fired off a shot to cut Centaurus’ lead to 2-1.
Emotions ran high for the Cougars, who were called offsides six times in the second half and had one player issued a red card and another a yellow card. Johnson also received a yellow card for arguing a call.
Centaurus scored the game-clincher on a penalty kick by Niccolls with 58 seconds left.
“We have to be more disciplined,” Johnson said. “We just assume cards or calls will happen and they don’t. We just have to play through it. We just have to be better.”
Centaurus coach Ken Ebersole said his team underwent a quick transformation after losing 3-0 to Silver Creek on Tuesday.
He wanted to see his team make only one- or two-touch passes throughout the match.
“That was our plan coming in,” Ebersole said. “We needed to get it off our foot. … We just held it and held it and tried to dribble too much (against Silver Creek). We knew that Niwot would play hard so we needed to get the ball moving, get it quick off our foot, give-and-go and get the opportunities to score.”
Centaurus 3, Niwot 1
at Centaurus H.S.
Niwot (6-1-1, 2-1) 0 1 — 1
Centaurus (4-6, 2-2) 2 1 — 3
Goals (assists) — Niwot: Tommy Hoffman (unassisted); Centaurus: Jesus Ocampo (Luke Niccolls), Ocampo (Niccolls), Niccolls.
Goalkeepers (Min-goals allowed-saves) — Niwot: Josh Watt (50-3), John Cooper (30-0-0); Centaurus: Ryan Ebersole (80-1-8).