Shelton: Legacy soccer leading 5A pack as dark horse

If there is any team in the soccer world praying today, it is the Denver East Angels. At 2 p.m., the Denver Public School League champions host the most electric squad in the Class 5A brackets.

Legacy is the darkest of this season’s dark horses, with the team’s rocky midseason earning it the 27th-seed. But the Lightning (12-4-1) have been shocking in their climb to the top of brackets, claiming the scalps of some 5A heavy weights to start the postseason. On Oct. 25, the team began its tournament with a 1-0 win at sixth-seed Arapahoe (10-4-2); then on Oct. 28, Legacy only grew stronger with a 4-1 win at No. 11 Lincoln (13-4).

Even with the impressive opening, the Lightning have the potential to really make some noise in the history of state soccer this afternoon at Denver’s All-City Stadium in the 5A quarterfinals. Legacy breaking third-seed East’s (15-2)  nine-game winning streak would be the biggest upset in the past 5 years of state playoff soccer.

The Colorado High School Activities Association’s seeding records only go back to 2007. But in that time a No. 27 has never beat team highly ranked as No. 3, so late in the tournament. State soccer, however, is no stranger to upsets. But most falters by top seeds occur extremely early in the brackets.

Early-round upsets are something of which Legacy boys soccer has intimate knowledge. The last time the Lightning qualified for the tournament they earned 2007’s fifth seed and were promptly beaten by No. 28 Pomona in the first round. Up until 2010, when 28th-seed Ralston Valley beat fifth-seed Heritage, it was one of the biggest upsets of recent history.

Legacy’s present position bodes well, given the last upstart that made it this far in the brackets. Mullen made it all the way to the 2007 state championship as a 23-seed. The team beat 4A’s seventh, second and third seeds, before finally falling to top-seed Broomfield 1-0 in overtime in the finals.

While potentially historic, the Lightning making mincemeat of its higher-seed opposition should not be surprising. Legacy has proved it could hang with the big dogs week in and out this season. It was just an extremely up year for the team’s Front Range League, with the conference pushing five teams into the state tournament. Somebody had to be odd-man out.

Luckily for Lightning, being the dark horse has made them almost a sure bet.