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NIWOT — Nothing better than a trip to Vail in October.

That’s just what the Niwot Cougars get after a 7-2 victory over D’Evelyn in the first round of the Class 4A state soccer tournament on Wednesday.

Up next for the No. 9-seeded Cougars is a date with defending Class 4A champion Battle Mountain on Tuesday.

“We feel confident in our ability to play and we know that we can take them,” said senior captain Danny Witt about the opportunity to take on the Huskies — who beat Durango 2-1 on Wednesday afternoon. “We are a good team, as long as we come ready to play.”

The words — come ready to play — proved rather poignant against D’Evelyn. The Jaguars drew first blood on Niwot, possessing the ball well early on and getting rewarded after a Charlie Doebbler shot banged off the crossbar above starting keeper Jack Fitzgerald and came right to the left foot of Giovanni Franzese, who tucked a beautiful volley inside the near post.

It was just the spark the Cougars needed to ignite their offense.

“One of the things we’ve talked about this year is stepping on the field and being a little more excited,” Niwot coach Rob Johnson said. “We kind of let the game come to us a little bit, and it gets us in trouble.

“Today we were kind of jacked up and all over the place and we settled down and things happened the way they were supposed to.”

Less than five minutes after the Jags took the lead, Niwot equalized with a Grant Webster goal that was set up beautifully by Witt. The transition goal had the Cougars off and running.

Niwot (11-3-1) would take the lead for good less than 10 minutes later on a bizarre-looking goal from junior defenseman Nicholas Alvarado. Alvarado was all alone on the on the right flank and put a high floating ball on goal and Jags keeper Eric Travenna was battling the sun and simply had it go over his reach. Witt ran under it to finish cleanly.

Witt, who would eventually record his third hat trick of the season, would add what amounted to the game winner in the 24th minute. After an unintentional D’Evelyn hand ball was called just outside the 18-yard box, Witt deftly placed a left-footed shot through the crowd.

“The opening goal got us a little nervous, but we knew we had to snap out of it and step it up,” Witt said. “We got the goal and it was all downhill from there, we just kept working hard.”

Sophomore Justin Barkow would cap the scoring in the first half and then add another in the second half. His second goal came on an assist from goalie Nick Oelsner on a punt that he ran under and finished. Junior Billy Hoffmann scored the Cougars’ last goal on a penalty kick.

Niwot has won six straight games since a 4-0 regular season loss to Broomfield and has outscored opponents 31-6 during that stretch. Johnson hopes his team is peaking at the right time for a showdown with the defending champs.

“The plan is to get better at the right time,” he said. “These guys are stepping up and they realize what needs to happen. We are not quite as fit as we need to be, which is weird, but we will get there.”

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Niwot 7, D’Evelyn 2

At Niwot H.S.

D’Evelyn (7-9) 1 1 — 2

Niwot (11-3-1) 4 3 — 7

Goals (assists) — D’Evelyn: Giovanni Franzese (unassisted), 5th minute; Niwot: Grant Webster (Danny Witt), 10th; Danny Witt (Nicholas Alvarado), 19th; Witt (unassisted), 24th; Justin Barkow (Alvarado), 35th; Witt (unassisted), 50th; Barkow (Oelsner), 56th; Billy Hoffmann (penalty kick), 65th; D’Evelyn: Daghan Yigitbas (unassisted), 79th.

Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — D’Evelyn: Eric Travenna (40-4-1), Chris Linden (40-3-1); Niwot: Jack Fitzgerald (38-1-0); Nick Oelsner (42-1-1).

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