Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer
Andy Cross / THE DENVER POST
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jim Davidson has had his fair share of memorable players come and go throughout the years at Broomfield.
Perhaps no one player epitomized the Eagle Way more than Justin Stephens, who was a junior on Davidson’s first championship team in 1999.
“He was one of my favorite players and he has become a really close friend,” Davidson said of his former player Stephens, who is now the head coach of Fort Collins — the team the Eagles will meet on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the semifinals at Echo Park Stadium in Parker.
“He’s someone that I am extremely proud of and sure, it tugs at my heart strings a little bit,” Davidson said. “But when the opening whistle happen, we turn into the competitive person that we are.”
Davidson and Stephens have crossed paths many times over the last decade, and the last one went the way of the Eagles last month at Elizabeth Kennedy … and in shocking fashion.
The Lambkins entered the game 9-0-1, having surrendered just one goal in the 820 minutes they had played to that point. Broomfield, down 1-0 at the half of that match, scored five times in the final 40 minutes to win going away.
“We understand, system-wise, what their approach will be. We know the strength of their system and their roster and they play to their strengths,” said Davidson, whose team would meet either Denver East or Grandview on Saturday in the title match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park should they advance.
“I think our tactical approach won’t be too dissimilar to what we did the first time. Obviously we had a lot of success when we made our own changes in the second half. It’s a challenge to have to try and beat them again, and hopefully our boys are up to it.”
In third-seeded Fort Collins (16-1-1), Davidson knows what to expect and it is as close to looking at a mirror image of his team as he will find in the state.
“Tactically it is always a challenge because Justin is one of the brightest coaches in the state, he’s a masterful coach,” Davidson said. “His teams are always technical and they always attack and they are finishing-minded, which is the hallmark of our programs. We are very similar in our approach.”
In the Class 4A semifinals, set for Legacy Stadium on the campus of Cherokee Trail, No. 3 Niwot and No. 7 Centaurus will square off in a Northern League rematch for the rights to play either Air Academy or The Classical Academy in the championship game on Saturday.
Centaurus (15-2-1) won the regular season game 2-1 in overtime, handing the Cougars (15-1-2) their only loss of the season.
“I’m excited for them and I’m excited for the game,” said Niwot coach Stephen Dimit, shortly after his team beat Denver North in double overtime in the quarters and found out the Warriors final. “That last one was a barn-burner and we look forward to seeing another Northern League team in the semis.”
Said Centaurus coach Lee Stanley, after his team’s win over Littleton on Saturday: “They were one of the best teams we played all season, hands down. I think we gave them their only loss and that gave us the league, from them essentially. They were already going to be a tough opponent, but now they have that little chip on their shoulder.”
(7) Broomfield (15-2-1) vs. (3) Fort Collins (16-1-1), 7 p.m. Wednesday, Echo Park Stadium (Parker): It is a Front Range League rematch of a game won by the Eagles 5-1 last month. … Fort Collins, coached by Broomfield alum Justin Stephens, has allowed just nine goals all season; and five of those where in the second half to Broomfield. … Michael Mooney leads Broomfield with 17 goals this season and did so while also earning all-state status as a cross country runner. … Tanner Smith has scored 10 times for Broomfield. … The Eagles have the experience on their side and a battle tested goalie in Jose Ogaz, who was in the spotlight of last years epic championship final against Boulder.
(7) Centaurus (15-2-1) vs. (3) Niwot (15-1-2), 7 p.m. Wednesday, Legacy Stadium (Cherokee Trail H.S. in Aurora): This will be a rematch of a Centaurus’ 2-1 victory last month at Niwot that essentially crowned the Warriors as league champs. … It is the deepest run for the Warriors, who are bolstered by a terrific duo of sophomores in Christian Nunez and Fernando Ruiz. The offense flows through Nunez (14 goals) , a magnificent on-ball force, in the midfield that is the catalyst for the Warriors offense.A majority of this 13 assists have been to Ruiz, who leads the team with 22 goals. … One of the two Centaurus losses this season was a forfeiture of their opening victory over Mesa Ridge. … Niwot is coming off a terrific defensive showing against a very good Denver North side. … The Cougars back line combination of Tyler Crall, Abel Marrufo, Nicholas Grant and Alexjandro Torcello will have to be strong in front of Mario Munoz again. … Manuel Tapia, who bagged the double overtime winner in the quarterfinals against North, leads the team with 16 goals and Jason Rodriguez has 13. … The winner will face either top-seeded Air Academy or defending champion The Classical Academy on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.