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Boys soccer: Niwot falls just short of state finals appearance in loss to Windsor

Windsor’s John Burnett scores winner in 74th minute

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    Niwot’s Keegan Stobbe turns towards the net during a Class 4A state playoff semifinal game against Windsor on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Orlando Lopez, left, battles with a Windsor defender during a Class 4A state boys soccer semifinal on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Keegan Stobbe takes a free kick from 27 yards out that found the back of the net against Windsor on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Keegan Stobbe attempts to squeeze through Windsor’s Colton Hettinger and Detcho Williams during their Class 4A state semifinal on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Aidan Martin, center, runs around Windsor’s Trevor Davis to corral a pass during their Class 4A state semifinal on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Aidan Martin, left, attempts to hold possession as Windsor’s Colin Miller pokes at the ball during their Class 4A state semifinal game on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Connor Grant slows as Windsor’s John Burnett approaches during their Class 4A boys soccer semifinal game on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Aidan Martin attempts to head a corner kick against Windsor on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

  • Brent W. New/BoCoPreps.com

    AURORA — Niwot’s Aidan Martin gathers control of a bouncing ball against Windsor on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Aurora.

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AURORA — Niwot senior Keegan Stobbe sat in the middle of the field following his team’s 2-1 Class 4A state semifinals loss to Windsor Wednesday night.

Not long after, teammate Azael Marrufo took a place next to him.

“I was really just taking in that last moment of me playing in high school, really,” Stobbe said. “Just enjoying that last minute and getting that last stadium view.”

Even in defeat there’s plenty to savor for the Cougars’ soccer program, which adapted gracefully to a season mixed up in a global pandemic, and yet again made a deep run in the state playoffs.

But like all sweet things that end, there’s sadness, too.

Tied at 1-apiece, racing into the waning minutes of regulation at Legacy Stadium in Aurora, Windsor’s John Burnett scored his second goal of the night in the 74th minute to lift the second-seeded Wizards past No. 3 Niwot to advance to the Class 4A finals.

In defeat, the Cougars still hold one of the more impressive resumés in the state. Over the past four seasons, they’ve won at least one postseason game and reached the semifinals twice. This year, they needled into a shrunken, playoff field by dominating the new 4A/3A Longs Peak League. They then put away Coronado and Regis Groff in the opening rounds.

“It’s hard to comprehend where we were a few months ago — like, barred from practice,” Niwot coach Stephen Dimit said, referring to restrictions around the pandemic. “To make the semifinal game in a year like this, my hat’s off to these guys. That shows incredible character.”

The second half saw Windsor push farther into Niwot’s end, but the Cougars held firm for most of it.

Keeper Javier Amaya made a leaping save in the 55th minute, then squeezed a point-blank shot inside of the box a few minutes later. But, with just under 7 minutes left, there wasn’t much he could do with the winner: Matisse Sakariassen crossed a picturesque chance from the far side of the field and Burnett finished into the low, right corner of the net.

Windsor players raced onto the field in celebration as the clock expired, and next will face the winner of No. 8 Lewis-Palmer and No. 5 Denver North for the state title at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.

Niwot players looked on — perhaps at what could have been, but more, what was.

“A lot of these guys have had three seasons canceled on them in one year between club and high school ball,” Dimit said. “The fact that they just came out and battled every day and they kept being hungry for it, it leads you here, under the big lights. And I couldn’t be prouder of these guys, especially the seniors.”

Stobbe finished with the same pedal-down mentality he rode throughout his touted career. Albeit small-statured, the big-play threat of the Cougars flew across the field and often put his body in harm’s way while trying to create.

Wednesday, he scored in the 18th minute to draw Niwot even. Off a free kick from 27 yards out, the senior looped a chance over a wall of Windsor players and in front of a wave of running attackers in the box. But instead of another touch, the ball had enough twist on its own that it bounced waywardly past the keeper.

It was the seventh goal of the season for the senior and the 21st of his career, per MaxPreps.

“Just put all my heart out on the field,” Stobbe said. “Just did my best. That’s all I can do.”

A few minutes earlier, Windsor took the lead on Burnett’s penalty kick.

The senior scored all five goals for Windsor over the past two rounds and has six in these playoffs. His 19 goals on the season are second-most in Class 4A, behind only Frederick’s Zane Doehring with 20.