LONGMONT — When the final buzzer sounded on a 3-1 second-round loss to Wheat Ridge, the Silver Creek Raptors still held their heads high.
The loss stung. But in getting to the second round of the Class 4A state tournament, the Raptors had already put together the best season in school history.
“Our first goal when we started out the season was to win a playoff game; it’s something the school’s never done,” senior goalkeeper Kyle Kirkland said.
The Raptors beat Denver South 4-1 to advance past the first round. But on Saturday at Everly-Montgomery Field they found themselves against a much larger Farmers side, and an offensive weapon they were unprepared for.
Utilizing their height and midfielder Chris Ridley’s monster throwing ability, the Farmers scored all three of their goals off of sideline throw-ins.
The Raptors thought they could have been more physical with the Farmers forwards but from his perspective in goal, Kirkland said the defense just looked a bit off balance against the unique attack.
“It’s something we didn’t see all season,” Kirkland said. “It hurts that this is a narrow field, but it’s something that we need to come through. We didn’t have the matchups, height-wise. That’s on me to organize where our players go and who they mark.”
The Farmers struck first when Travis Cunningham cleaned up a loose ball in front of the net in the fourth minute.
The Raptors answered back two minutes later when sophomore Steven Flores found sophomore center midfielder Jonathan Wright on a free kick from far out on the left side. Wright tracked the driven ball and headed it far side for the score.
“That’s our play: Steven plays it back post and I make a run on it,” Wright said. “It worked good and I just finished it.”
But three minutes later, another Ridley through found Matt Whitfield’s head for a second goal. And in the final seconds of the first half, a third throw-in caused calamity in the box and Angel Ovalle found the net to give the Farmers a 3-1 halftime lead.
Down big in the second half, the Raptors’ pace turned frantic. Instead of working the ball up the field, the Raptors began playing the ball long, giving the Farmers defenders a chance to win the ball in the air.
“We were rushing ourselves,” Wright said. “We just played like we had to go forward the whole time but we needed to play more to feet and slow the game down a little bit. We still had more time than we thought but we started to go faster.”
And the game itself got ugly. Seven cards were handed out between the teams, including a red card to Farmers defender Tristan Sestak Hart for a hard foul.
Despite playing a man up, the Raptors couldn’t put anything together. They finished with just three shots on goal.
A sophomore, Wright said it feels good to know he’ll have a chance to keep the Raptors winning trend going for a couple more seasons.
“We made history on the season, the first time we made it to the second round of playoffs,” Wright said. “We’ll just keep moving forward with Silver Creek soccer. We set the pace this season.”
Brad Cochi can be reached at email@example.com.
Wheat Ridge 3,
Silver Creek 1
At Everly-Montgomery Field
Wheat Ridge 3 0 — 3
Silver Creek 1 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Peter Wing (Chris Ridley), Wheat Ridge, 4th minute; Johnathan Wright (Steven Flores), Silver Creek, 6th minute; Matt Whitfield (Ridley), Wheat Ridge, 9th minute; Angel Ovalle (Ridley), Wheat Ridge, 40th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Wheat Ridge: Joe Fitzwilliam (80-1-2). Silver Creek: Kyle Kirkland (80-3-7).
Shots — Wheat Ridge 12, Silver Creek 14.
Shots on goal — Wheat Ridge 10, Silver Creek 3.
Corner kicks — Wheat Ridge 3, Silver Creek 6.