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Boys soccer: Fairview works for golden opportunity, beats Liberty in OT for state title game bid

Knights to face Cherry Creek on Saturday afternoon in Colorado Springs

  • Fairview senior Job Meuleman (5) welcomes a hug from Spanish teacher Rikki Keiser, left, after hugging his mother Susan Hesselink after scoring the winning overtime goal to win a class 5A state semifinal match against Liberty on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Fairview senior McKenzie Mazur gets tripped up by Liberty senior defender Jeff Koch (23) during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo.

  • Fairview sophomore goalie Shane Williams (24) kicks the ball away under Liberty’s Caden Hickox (2) during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview senior Job Meuleman (5) lays on the ground after scoring the winning goal in overtime against Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview senior Jordy Lopez (22) gets fouled by Liberty’s Ty Kinder (10) while attempting to go for a header during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview junior Jake Milanski (8) connects on a header during a class 5A state semifinal match against Liberty on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Fairview senior Job Meuleman (5) reacts after scoring the winning goal in overtime against Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo.

  • Fairview sophomore goalie Shane Williams (24) saves a goal by Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview junior Layne Weeks (13) gain control of the ball during a class 5A state semifinal match against Liberty on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview sophomore goalie Shane Williams (24) saves a goal by Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Liberty senior goalie Theo Koch (0) attempts to stop a goal from Fairview junior Jake Milanski (8) during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Fairview senior Job Meuleman (5) kicks the ball in front of Liberty’s Ty Kinder (5) during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

  • Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer

    Fairview senior Job Meuleman (5) lifts his hand up to the student section while being hugged by his mother Susan Hesselink after scoring the winning goal in overtime against Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo.

  • Fairview junior Jake Milanski (8) reacts after scoring a goal against Liberty during a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo.

  • Fairview senior Jordy Lopez (22) comforts Liberty junior Logan Singh (11) after winning a class 5A state semifinal match on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Englewood, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer)

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ENGLEWOOD — When it comes to the semifinals of 5A playoff boys soccer, one should expect nothing less than an all-out war when two teams come head-to-head. On Wednesday night at Randy Penn Stadium, that’s exactly what happened as second-seeded Fairview stunned third-seeded Liberty in a battle fitting of top-tier teams.

A flurry of second-half action gave way to overtime, where the Knights scored the golden goal just 2 minutes, 13 seconds into the first overtime for a 2-1, teeth-clenching victory.

Senior Job Meuleman played hero for the Knights as, off of a smooth assist from Sebastien Mazur, he broke through the Lancers’ defenses to blast the ball past Liberty keeper Theo Koch.

“It feels amazing. It’s so nice to be able to be there for my team as a captain and support everyone in the back,” Meuleman said, “And then going up and finishing it off up top is the best feeling I’ve had in a very long time. I know Seb and I know he will do it for the team. I know if he’s not in a very good angle, I will cut across and see him in the middle of the box and finish it myself.”

The high-stakes contest far outshined the night’s earlier final four matchup between No. 16 Cherry Creek and No. 4 Grandview. The Bruins stunned their competition 2-0 to advance to Saturday’s title game, which is scheduled to take place at Switchbacks Weidner Field in Colorado Springs at 3 p.m.

The Knights certainly won’t underestimate 5A’s lowest seed when the two face off for the state crown. Cherry Creek opened the tournament with a huge upset over No. 1-seeded Regis Jesuit and hasn’t slowed down since.

Through thick and thin, the Knights have stuck together, even when a pandemic tried to tear them apart. Now, they’re being rewarded for their commitment and camaraderie.

“The day that the pandemic began and they shut everything down, we had a Zoom meeting with the team,” head coach Eric Schuler said. “Everybody who’s been a part of the program said we are going to meet just like regular. We are going to meet every day for training, whether it’s social distanced, whether it’s just a social event to stay together. We sort of named that mentality as ‘heartwork.’ All that means for us is whether we’re showing up every day social distanced, whether we’re showing up to compete under the lights, we’re going to work hard for each other.”

The Knights (12-0-1) and Lancers (11-1) opened the first half with fairly even play as neither team seemed to gain any type of momentum. Both teams relied on strong defense to keep each other at bay, but the keepers still saw some action here and there.

Liberty nearly scored in the seventh minute when a header from a corner kick hit a post, but Fairview’s sophomore keeper Shane Williams was able to escape unscathed. The ball didn’t get near him too much after that.

In the last 20 minutes, the Knights started to gain a bit of an advantage. The Lancers still kept the contest tight, but Fairview was able to break through their defenses more and more to get off some promising shots on goal.

Koch kept his Lancers golden with some phenomenal saves as Fairview pressured him more and more. Williams had just one great save in the final few minutes before a scoreless halftime.

Things escalated quickly in the second half.

Less than two minutes in, Liberty’s Chase Compton snuck the ball past Williams and into the right side of the net to put the Lancers on top, 1-0.

That didn’t last long.

The Lancers’ rough style of play finally caught up to them four minutes later. Fairview’s Jake Milanski earned a free kick from 25 yards out and wasted no time taking advantage of it. He skied the ball over Koch and into the top back of the goal. Once again, the Knights and Lancers sat at a 1-1 draw.

They saw a significant cool down after that as neither team managed to get the go-ahead goal in regulation.

Now, the Knights will have to set their sights on the red-hot Bruins as they look to win their first program title.

“We have an exciting game (next),” Schuler said. “This is the stuff that they’re going to tell their kids and families about for the rest of their lives.”