LONGMONT — When Silver Creek senior standouts like keeper Alex Larner, Neruda King and Luke Masson — among many other upperclassmen — first joined the soccer program as freshmen, they had no idea where their high school careers would take them.
That class elevated the Raptors to the next level with the help of head coach Rob Johnson, who said his boys just needed a little more belief in themselves. That first season, the team played all the way to the state tournament quarterfinals. On Wednesday night at Everly-Montgomery Field, their careers came to an end in the second round of this season’s Class 4A state playoffs in a 3-2 loss to No. 22 seed Northridge.
The sixth-seeded Raptors couldn’t connect on solid look after solid look in the closing 10 minutes to at least force overtime. The seniors were instrumental in getting them there in the first place.
“It shows that we’re building a better culture at Silver Creek. We want to have a winning culture where people get (mad) when we lose so at least we’re starting to do that,” King said. “We started off (freshman year) with when we lost, we didn’t really care and then a group of us kind of changed that. We made practice harder and we got people to be more passionate about winning.”
They ended their season with an 11-6 record as junior Kael Pacaro (10 goals), Masson (eight goals) and King (eight goals) consistently stepped up for their offense. The Raptors placed second in an incredibly tough Northern League, which sent half of its teams to the state playoffs, with a 6-1 record.
The Grizzlies and Raptors got off to a hot start after Northridge netted the first goal in the 12th minute off of a corner kick. That didn’t sit right with the Raptors.
Less than three minutes later, junior defender Ryder Nicolaus ricocheted the ball back into the net after Northridge’s keeper blocked a previous Silver Creek scoring attempt for his first goal of the season. That 1-1 score held throughout most of the evenly matched first half, but King decided he wanted to give his team the advantage going into the break.
With 3:40 left on the clock and a man in perfect position, King took a long pass from the right side and deflected it toward the goal. It soared over the Northridge keeper’s head and kissed the back of the net to put the Raptors up 2-1 with 43 minutes left to play.
That lead didn’t hold either.
The Grizzlies, their backs up against a wall, strategically drew Silver Creek’s senior keeper Alex Larner out of the goal and outplayed him to net the equalizer in the 59th minute. They added another goal to their tally to claim a 3-2 advantage 10 minutes later.
“We had 20 minutes in the second half and we didn’t score,” head coach Rob Johnson said. “We didn’t put our chances away, and they kept hanging around and did not give up. So tough one.”