The only thing that slowed Degen Miller’s thumpingly good entrance into the high school soccer ring was a season-ending injury.
Bordering somewhere between ridiculous and unthinkable, the speedy forward scored 25 times and had seven assists through the team’s first nine games last spring before being sidelined for the remaining nine.
She was great — but knows there was an opportunity to do more. Gone was a chance at her first postseason, and even more painful, lost was an opportunity to play in the Class 2A championship game that Dawson eventually won for its first title in program history.
“I remember when we made it to Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park), I saw the field and was pretty bummed that I wasn’t able to play on it,” Miller said. “It was fun to be a part of it, but I’m glad I’ll be on the field this year and hopefully be able to contribute to a win.”
Not to worry. The Mustangs have made a habit of returning to the title game. They’re going on five straight years.
Tuesday, the 2A title will come down to the No. 2 Mustangs and No. 1 Denver Christian for a third consecutive year.
The Thunder won in 2017 before Dawson returned the favor in 2018. And if that wasn’t enough, Dawson-Denver Christian III delivered a nice taster a month ago when the Mustangs beat Denver Christian 2-1 on the strength of two Miller goals.
“We look at every game as a puzzle,” Dawson coach David Criswell said. “We know most of the puzzle pieces for Denver Christian, but we know there will be a few that are missing just because (Thunder coach) Brad (Homan) is an outstanding coach. We know we should not expect what we should expect, and we’ll try to be ready for that.”
Class 2A championship game
No. 1 Denver Christian vs. No. 2 Dawson School
Details: 5 p.m. Tuesday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
What to watch for: #MillerTime. Degen Miller finished tied for second in goals in Class 2A last spring despite being shelved for 50 percent of the season. Now, a cool 100, she’s only been better as a sophomore. Miller has scored 31 goals and 17 assists this year. She was absolutely uncontainable in the team’s 5-1 win over Crested Butte in the semifinals Wednesday.
Worth the price of admission: Dawson keeper Kate Gallop. Coach David Criswell became emotional when talking about how Gallop has diligently worked herself from a newbie freshman keeper to a senior save stud. On Wednesday, she made a nifty save on a PK chance.
Class 4A semifinals
No. 8 Silver Creek vs. No. 21 Cheyenne Mountain
Details: Saturday at Legacy Stadium in Aurora
What to watch for: Keeper Natalie Schauer added to her sparkling shutout streak in the Raptors’ 1-0 win over top-seeded D’Evelyn Wednesday. Schauer, who hasn’t allowed a goal this postseason, will get another big test against battle-tested Cheyenne Mountain. Of course, one would be wise to just ignore the 21-seed before the Indians’ name as the championship-rich program has knocked out No. 12 Mead, No. 5 Air Academy and No. 4 Wheat Ridge — all on the road — to advance.
Worth the price of admission: Clutch Raptors forward Alexa Karsel. Silver Creek didn’t have a ton of scoring chances against the top-seeded Jags, but Karsel finished in the 55th minute and the Raptors danced on.
Class 3A semifinals
No. 1 Colorado Academy vs. No. 13 Prospect Ridge
Details: Saturday at Englewood High School
What to watch for: Under first-year coach Rod Muir, the Miners’ improbable run to the semifinals include double overtime wins over No. 4 Salida and No. 21 Vail Mountain. Up next is Colorado Academy, the team it lost 10-0 to a month ago. So, is this where the magic runs out? Or does this team of destiny have another chapter or two left unwritten?
Worth the price of admission: Prospect Ridge. Just all of them. Outside their program, not a lot of people probably saw them getting this far after winning just five games in 2018.
No. 2 Kent Denver vs. No. 3 Jefferson Academy
Details: Saturday at Englewood High School
What to watch for: The Sun Devils, who beat Jefferson Academy 1-0 on April 27, would probably love to knock the Jaguars out of the postseason after they played spectator to Denise Sutton’s team’s state title celebration following a shootout classic last spring. The Jags, meanwhile, have battled injuries all season, but are again on the cusp of more happy tears and hugs.
Worth the price of admission: Jags junior Danae Lamb. She had her second three-goal game of the month in a 5-0 semifinals win over Aspen Wednesday.