Three hours stuck on a bus in gridlock traffic hardly fazed the Rock Canyon High boys soccer team on Friday night.
Four hours, 3 minutes after the Jaguars’ game at Fairview was originally scheduled to begin, freshman Oliver Larsson nailed the decisive penalty kick to boost fifteenth-seeded RCHS to an upset of the No. 2 Knights in the second round of the Class 5A state tournament.
Larsson’s left-footed boot to the upper left corner of the net made it 6-5 in PKs after the two teams had finished 110 minutes of regulation and overtime soccer knotted 1-1.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Larsson, who hadn’t even played during the game but came on as the Jaguars’ seventh shooter in PKs after RCHS keeper Blake Foley had smothered a shot by Fairview No. 7 shooter Derek Mahalek. “I was nervous going up. But once I scored, it doesn’t beat that.”
As exhilarating as the moment was for Larsson, the season-ending loss was crushing for the Knights (12-2-3), who had won the Front Range League title and were gunning for a state crown. They’d reached the state quarterfinals each of the last three years.
“Definitely makes it a little bittersweet,” said FHS junior striker Eric Kronenberg, who had one of the two goals by Fairview that were waved off during regulation. “We were really trying to push to get past the quarterfinals because that’s where we always get stopped. That was our No. 1 goal of the season, and we didn’t get there.”
Rock Canyon (11-3-3) advances to face No. 10 Regis.
Traveling along Interstate 25 in Denver, the Jaguars’ bus got caught in backed up traffic due to a wreck that closed the highway. A game that was supposed to start at 6 p.m. began instead about 7:20. That’s not to mention a 20-minute delay between the end of regulation and the start of the first overtime because FHS’ stadium lights were set to automatically shut off at 9 p.m. and had to be warmed back up.
“It was all worth it though,” RCHS coach Sean Henning said. “I’d do it all over again to have the same result.”
The Jaguars struck first Friday, scoring in the 35th minute off of a free kick by David Boldt that was saved by Fairview goalie Alan Schuerman but then put away on the second chance by junior defender John Rehl from point-blank range.
Fairview answered in the 52nd minute on a goal by Ollie Gerland after he took a pass from Amos Nash and left-footed the ball home.
But despite creating more scoring chances in the game, the Knights could never grab the lead.
FHS had appeared to answer Rock Canyon in the 37th minute on a free kick by Shane O’Neill that hit the back of the net. But the Knights were called for interfering with the keeper.
In the 69th minute, Kronenberg scored on a pass from Nash. But referees ruled that Nash had been offsides. Nash’s initial pass attempt from near the goal line appeared to deflect back to him off a Rock Canyon player. But officials said it hit a Fairview player before the Rock Canyon player.
“It was an unfortunate call for us,” Kronenberg said.
After two scoreless 15-minute overtimes, FHS coach Stan Jozwiak opted to put his star, O’Neill, in net for PKs rather than Schuerman, a sophomore.
“I wanted somebody with some experience out there, and Shane actually is not a bad goalkeeper,” Jozwiak said. “And I wanted him to be taking those shots.”
Both teams made their first two penalty kicks before Foley and O’Neill each eventually managed a save to make it 4-4 through the first five rounds. Fairview’s Dustin Levine and Rock Canyon’s Brian Hanshaft both came through in Round 6 before Foley lunged to his left to deny Mahalek to set up Larsson’s heroics.
“We dominated most of the game but there’s only so much you can do once it gets to PKs,” Gerland said. “We played a good defense. It just wasn’t our day I’d say.”
Rock Canyon 1, Fairview 1
At Fairview HS
Rock Canyon (11-3-3) 1 0 0 0 — 1
Fairview (12-2-3) 0 1 — 1
Rock Canyon wins on penalty kicks, 6-5.
Goals (assists) — Rock Canyon: John Rehl (David Boldt), 35th minute; Fairview: Ollie Gerland (Amos Nash), 52nd minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) —Rock Canyon: Blake Foley (110-1-4); Fairview: Alan Schuerman (110-1-3).