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Boys soccer: Bluebloods in peril with soccer postseason looming

Limited playoff room could spell the end to long-standing streaks

Niwot’s Aidan Martin looks for a ...
Daily Camera file photo
Niwot’s Aidan Martin looks for a cross against Riverdale Ridge on Thursday, March 25, 2021 at Niwot High School.

There are the bluebloods in the state’s boys soccer scene — programs that routinely shine brighter as the stage grows in size.

But like so much else over the past year, they too will take a hit in a season that only looks to get stranger.

Now into the final days of the regular season with closing night this Saturday, the announcement of the postseason brackets is expected to follow Sunday. And while normally this would be a good time for teams to ask themselves, ‘Are we in or out?’  — and if in, ‘How long can you avoid facing one of the state soccer royalties?’ — the pandemic year promises to change the narrative.

Postseason fields across the four classifications have been severely cut due to the state health restrictions — meaning programs who’d have easily made the dance in a normal season, will not in 2021.

Instead, everyone’s playoff hopes ride on a crossbar-slim resumé.

In the 5A classification, 12 teams automatically qualify from seven leagues, while another four will get in with an at-large bid based off CHSAA’s new seeding formula.

It leaves 5A’s Front Range League, arguably the state’s most talented soccer conference from top to bottom, with only two guaranteed spots following a 2019 season where it sent eight.

Playing its 2021 schedule all inside the FRL, Fairview (6-0-1)  and Legacy (6-2) currently sit atop the standings and would get in if the season ended today. Bluebloods Broomfield (5-2-1) and Boulder (4-2-1), however, are back in the league race and outside the top 20 in RPI. If they were to miss the postseason, it would be historic.

Broomfield has never missed the postseason since Jim Davidson took over in 1997 and has since won a state-most eight titles, including four since moving to 5A in 2014. A program known to have some growing pains in the regular season, only to flip the switch come playoff time, will likely need a strong finish with two games remaining to have a chance at title No. 9.

Also on the fringe is Boulder, which hasn’t missed the postseason since 2005, before the arrival of longtime coach Hardy Kalisher. In the Kalisher era, the Panthers have had a top-10 state ranking from 2007-2019. They’ve made the 5A semifinals four times and have won two titles.

Broomfield and Boulder meet Saturday in what looks like a must-win finale.

Another playoff mainstay in peril is Silver Creek, which moved to 5A this season. The Raptors are one of just two 5A teams from the 5A/4A NCAC, which means they have no automatic bid available to get into the tournament. It means their nine-year playoff streak is in jeopardy as they are currently ranked 20th in RPI.

In Class 4A, 15 teams will automatically qualify from 10 leagues while only one team will get an at-large bid.

Erie is currently holding onto the final qualifying spot in the NCAC, sitting second behind Windsor at 7-1. Holy Family suddenly dropped to 6-2 Monday night with a 1-0 loss to Greeley West, putting even more at stake when the two Tigers collide Wednesday night.

Niwot is expected to get in after going undefeated in the 4A/3A Longs Peak League. Frederick, meanwhile, is still in the hunt at 7-2 and immediately dropped fellow competitor Thompson Valley into a more pressing scenario after a 5-0 victory over the Eagles Monday night.

Elsewhere, Class 3A’s postseason formula is the same as 5A with 12 automatic berths and four at-large bids. Class 2A’s bracket will be made up of four league winners and four at-larges.

Peak to Peak is currently 4-2 in the 3A Metro League and Jefferson Academy is 2-1-1. Both are still alive in grabbing one of the league’s two automatic spots. The Pumas have two games left and the Jags are scheduled to have five.

Dawson, the 2A runner-up in 2019, is currently behind Loveland Classical in the race for the 2A Mile High West crown. The Mustangs have four games remaining.

Last year, 14 teams from the region made the boys’ soccer postseason. Only four teams, though — Fairview, Legacy, Erie and Niwot — came into the week in position to return this spring.