Boulder Daily Camera file photo
BROOMFIELD – The last time the Centaurus boys soccer team played in a state championship game, the Warriors did so as the No. 7 overall seed.
Head coach Lee Stanley reminded his current team of that coincidental fact just moments after the Warriors, as the No. 26 seed in the 4A playoffs, defeated No. 7 Holy Family on Saturday. The 5-0 road victory was convincing and a little extra encouraging for the Warriors, who now have the exact same road according to seeding that they had when they came within a goal of a state title two years ago.
Many of the current Warriors were on that 2017 team and opening this fall’s state tournament with a resounding upset only reinforced their belief that they can recapture the same magic that spurred its run.
“We’ve been working really hard every day to become a really good team and win state,” Fernando Ruiz, who was a sophomore starter in ’17, said. “We just go hard and don’t give up. It’s good that we won today but we have to keep doing the same.”
Ruiz leads Centaurus (9-6-1) with 19 goals on the season and scored the Warriors’ first two goals on Saturday. He won a scramble off a deflected save in the 28th minute to score the first and give the Warriors a 1-0 halftime lead, and dribbled free of the Holy Family (13-3) defense to score with a low far-side shot in the 42nd minute.
Holy Family’s comeback chances took a deadly blow when the Tigers committed an own goal in the 47th minute. Warriors senior Christian Nunez, who has now scored 17 goals, scored a fourth goal in the 55th minute and Jimmy Plampin added on a fifth in the 78th minute.
“We’ve been under-performing all year and we were talking before the game about some of our results,” Stanley said. “The losses we’ve had are against some highly-ranked teams and we’ve lost four or five of those games against top six to eight seeds in the playoffs, and by a goal. We had three overtime games, one tie and two losses. If we flip the script on those, we’re 11-3-1 and that’s more where I feel our skill level puts us.
“But records don’t mean much at this point. It’s win or go home now. We knocked off number seven and we have the number seven road now.”
One negative outcome for Centaurus on Saturday was that junior midfielder Joey Weirl was sent off with a red card after receiving his second yellow of the game in the 62nd minute and will have to sit out the next round.
Centaurus will play No. 10 Discovery Canyon in the second round. Discovery Canyon won 2-0 against No. 23 Rifle in its first-round game on Friday.
Holy Family won its last 10 games of the regular season and claimed the Tri-Valley League championship. Even hosting the first round on Saturday, the Tigers simply couldn’t find a way to build much momentum despite creating several countering chances.
“I think our age was going to play a factor at some point,” Tigers head coach David Martinez said. “It just goes to show that winning league doesn’t guarantee you anything in the playoffs. You’ve got to show up every day and today we chose not to show up in many aspects of our game. Simple mistakes that we have to live with, but we will be back and stronger next year.”