Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Brad Cochi / BoCoPreps.com
There was a common question being asked throughout Legacy Stadium Wednesday evening during the Class 4A state soccer semifinals.
“When was the last time Centaurus has done anything, especially in soccer?”
To properly answer that question, one has to dig into the history books of what is and has been a proud athletic Warriors tradition. The early to mid-90’s were the glory years, especially in wrestling, where the Warriors won multiple big school titles. Most recently, the co-op Warriors girls lacrosse team did make the finals in the 2013.
But to find the last time a Centaurus team competed for a state title in a boys sport (not including the 2011 state champion cross country team), you have to go back to 1995, when the football team had a crack at the state championship against Green Mountain.
Fast forward to Saturday, when the Warriors — fresh off a 2-0 semifinal victory over Niwot — will have a chance to win the Lafayettes school’s first title in boys soccer when they take on top-seeded and unbeaten Air Academy (19-0) at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 10:30 a.m.
Can you believe it?
“I can believe it now,” said sophomore Christian Nunez shortly after his team dispatched of the Cougars. “It feels great to go to the finals. I knew we had this opportunity, now we’ve got to take that chance.”
Said Centaurus coach Lee Stanley: “For the school and for the program and all the athletes, it’s beyond expectation. It’s amazing.”
There are not too many people that thought this version of the Warriors, chalk full of underclassmen talent — notably sophomores Nunez and Fernando Ruiz — would be at this point, this quickly.
But here they are and they have a legitimate chance on the wide pitch at Dick’s to really dictate the match in the midfield against the bigger Kadets.
“I think when you have a larger pitch, the creativity and on-ball skill that we have from our center midfielders — Ethan (Michel), Toby (Rubenfeld) and Christian — it gives them more space,” Stanley said. “And when they have more space, they are incredibly dangerous.”
In Class 5A, the Broomfield Eagles have a chance to make some history of their own.
Going into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. title match against top-seeded Denver East, the Eagles are currently tied with Cherry Creek for the most soccer state championships by one school with six. And while coach Jim Davidson would love No. 7 with this team that he has said from the beginning of the season had a chance to do something special, he is tempering that until things play out.
“It’s exciting that we’ve put ourselves in a position and we have an opportunity to try to do that,” said Davidson, after his team knocked out his former player Justin Stephens’ Fort Collins Lambkins 3-1 on Wednesday in Parker. “But what’s most important is that these kids have worked hard to get back to the championship match and then being able to get that experience is the biggest thing.”
(7) Broomfield (16-2-1) vs. (1) Denver East (18-1), 3:30 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: The Eagles are chasing history, in search of their record-setting seventh state title. … It is the Eagles fourth straight appearance in the title game since joining Class 5A and they are a devastating 14-round shootout-loss to Boulder last year away from being three-time defending champs. …Broomfield is unbeaten in it’s last 11 matches and hasn’t dropped a game since Sept. 23 to Fairview. … The Eagles have a knack of letting the game come to them early on and then adjusting not only at halftime, but on the fly to counter what the opposition does best. One only has to look at both Fort Collins games to truly see that. … Michael Mooney, who placed seventh at the state cross country championships a couple weeks ago, is the teams leading scorer with 17 goals followed closely by Tanner Smith — the teams quiet workman. … Goalie Jose Ogaz is not afraid to take chances, especially with BoCo All-Region sweeper Cameron Broadhurst in front of him. … Denver East, with legendary coach Kirk Bast at the helm, has won three titles including most recently in 2011. … The Angels, who have been bitten by the injury bug during the playoffs, are led by Sam Carson’s 20 goals.
(7) Centaurus (16-2-1) vs. (1) Air Academy (19-0), 10:30 a.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: Centaurus enters the game on a 16 game unbeaten streak, with a tie against Silver Creek the only blemish on an otherwise sterling run. … It is the Warriors first trip to a state title game in soccer, and their first in a boys state title game since the football team lost to Green Mountain in 1995. … It is obvious who makes the Warriors go in both Christian Nunez (14 goals, 13 assists) and Fernando Ruiz (22 goals, 8 assists), but the supporting cast — including Ethan Michel, Toby Rubenfeld and Noah Davis — are just as important to the success of the team. … The Warriors defense, which has been nearly error free, will need to be at its best in front of Rodrigo Ruiz against a much larger side in Air Academy — a team with 86 goals this season. … The Kadets survived a scare from Skyline in the quarterfinals, winning 3-2 in overtime. … Air Academy, a three time champ that most recently won it all in 2014, have a a combined 50 goals from the threesome of Kristian Hooker (18), Luke Louthan (16) and Thaddaeus Dewing (16).