Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer
BOULDER — Youth can be both a vice and a virtue, and Fairview boys soccer learned that hard lesson on Tuesday night in its home matchup against Class 5A’s seventh-ranked Fort Collins.
The Knights, who are ranked No. 6 themselves, couldn’t match the intensity set by an older, more experienced Lambkins squad that handed them their second loss of the season with a 2-0 final. The Lambkins scored both goals within the first 33 minutes of play.
This year, the defending state champions will have the luxury of a long season to iron out all the wrinkles before CHSAA’s selection committee sits down to pick the postseason brackets. On a roster of 23, about half are underclassmen. Fairview brought just seven players back from its state championship squad.
“Last year, we had a lot of seniors in our starting lineup and we had to go undefeated just with the design of last season in a COVID-shortened year,” head coach Eric Schuler explained. “In a year where we don’t have to go undefeated to get into the playoffs, we try and build the team for the future, meaning for two months from now and for the next two or three years. We’re focusing on game-building.”
Still, Fairview has seen success in spurts.
The Knights began the season with a win against Arvada West and later added to that column with a major 1-0 victory against Cherry Creek, who was ranked No. 5 at the time. Their only other loss came at the hands of No. 1 Castle View in a separate 1-0 decision.
Tuesday, Fort Collins controlled the pace of play throughout the majority of the first half and walked away with a 2-0 lead going into the break. Fairview picked up the intensity in the second frame but still couldn’t break through the Lambkin defense to get on the board.
“It was really the first 20 minutes of the game,” Schuler said. “With our youth, still understanding the balance of when to step, when to drop, when to get stuck in, they’re just learning it. My concern really is the first 20 minutes of the game where we were out of sorts. After that, the chances in the game were pretty equal.”
Fairview will have a lengthy rest period before facing an even tougher opponent in its next matchup, when it hosts No. 2 Boulder on Sept. 23. Win or lose, the Knights are picking up valuable experience that Schuler hopes will help his team in the long run.
Fort Collins proved to be a good early test to see where they’re at.
“They’re a really good team,” junior keeper Shane Williams said. “They’re great in the attack and really solid. They work hard and I think they’re pretty up there with Cherry Creek and all those other teams that we’ve played. It was a tough game.”