Just three games now separate Fairview from nabbing a state title following its 11-4 victory over Kent Denver in the first round of the 5A state tournament on Tuesday at Boulder High’s Recht Field.
The fifth-seeded Knights (10-1) came in riding a nine-game win streak while the Sun Devils (5-6) made the playoffs as a 12 seed despite losing three of their final four games.
The victory marked Fairview’s first in a state playoff game since defeating Steamboat Springs in the 2010 first round. Up next will be a rematch with four-seeded Mountain Vista (7-2) on Friday in the quarterfinals. These squads met as recently as last Friday, a game in which Fairview won, 7-5.
Fairview head coach Matthew Kelley said the win was another check mark on the Knights’ state title to-do list.
“We set this thing up into different stages,” Kelley said. “The first was winning the (5A Two) league, the second was knocking off (Mountain) Vista, and now we’re step one in playoffs.”
The Knights were led by their defense on Tuesday and held Kent Denver to its fewest goals of the season.
“We built this team around (defense),” Kelley said. “They hold tight and we win games, that’s what we expect. They played really, really hard and aggressive.”
Junior Jack Cromwell, senior Sam Knowlton and senior Liam O’Brien each scored a pair of goals in the first half to build a 6-2 halftime advantage. O’Brien would go on to score two more goals in the fourth quarter to lead Fairview with four.
“I was able to put some in the back of the cage but in the end, this is really just a team effort,” O’Brien said.
With O’Brien and the defense surging, senior goalkeeper Brooks Catlin had a low stress night in the net. “He’s just outstanding and made some great saves,” O’Brien said.
After a fourth quarter Kent Denver goal brought the game to 10-4, senior Jack Wirth answered with his first goal of the night to puncture the Sun Devils’ momentum and their season.
Fairview and Mountain Vista will meet in the quarterfinals at Shea Stadium in Highlands Ranch on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The Golden Eagles, despite losing to Fairview, were seeded one spot higher than the Knights and earned a first round bye.
O’Brien said the supposed snub only fueled the fire: “It’s Fairview against the world and we’re about to run it back.”