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Boys soccer: Fairview loses state title game in 1-0 heartbreaker

Fairview's Cole Hamilton sits on the field as Denver East players celebrate their Class 5A state championship in boys soccer Saturday at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Fairview’s Cole Hamilton sits on the field as Denver East players celebrate their Class 5A state championship in boys soccer Saturday at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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COLORADO SPRINGS — Youth in high school sports can sometimes be a burden, but it can also be a sign of hope and prosperity.

No. 12 seed Fairview soccer may have missed out on its second Class 5A state championship in three years with a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Denver East at Weidner Field on a frigid Saturday night, but the Knights showed grit and maturity far beyond their years in a battle that many — including CHSAA’s seeding committee — didn’t think they would be at in the first place.

They had to beat No. 5 Boulder, No. 4 Broomfield and No. 8 Ralston Valley before taking on the Angels. Had Denver East’s Tayler Secrest not snuck one past senior keeper Shane Williams in the 57th minute, they just may have won the war in the end.

Williams, the lone starter from that spring of 2021 state championship team, saw the correlation between the two squads from the beginning, despite fielding almost an entirely different roster. He continued his season-long heroics in the goal box on Saturday, save for one mishap.

Fairview's Shane Williams stops a shot while Denver East's Prishad Mitchell collides with him. Denver East defeats Fairview 1-0 in 5A state soccer on November 12, 2022.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
Fairview’s Shane Williams keeps his concentration amid chaos during Saturday’s Class 5A state championship game Saturday in Colorado Springs. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Denver East’s defense certainly didn’t make his job any easier by depriving Fairview of a number of scoring chances.

“I’m so proud, not even the 12 seed, just the whole season,” Williams said. “We’ve worked so hard. I know a lot of people didn’t believe in us and even some of ourselves at the beginning of the season didn’t believe in us but with (head coach Eric Schuler) coaching us and just all the work we put in the whole year, just coming together as a family just to get here, it’s huge.”

The team, which was comprised of eight sophomores and 10 juniors, was younger than their junior varsity team. One postseason win as the lower seed could be chalked up to pure fortune, but three make it another story entirely.

“The fact that we battled into this position — one game can be luck, two games can be luck. Going this far through the teeth of the playoffs against the second-best team in this state, I couldn’t be more proud,” Schuler said. “Our whole goal was to get into playoffs and start to climb from there. It really didn’t matter if we were one or 32nd. It was just get into playoffs and battle.”

As they do every year, the Knights had to mature quickly in 5A soccer’s toughest conference. The unforgiving Front Range League handed Fairview not only some of its toughest heartbreaks but its most thrilling victories.

They showed their wisdom, gained within just four weeks, when they turned a 3-1 regular-season loss to Broomfield into a 2-1 overtime thriller in the quarters to send them back to the title game.

No, that’s not luck. That’s a winning culture that Schuler has carefully crafted in his four years with the program.

“Exceptional teams are full of exceptional players,” Schuler said. “At Fairview, we have been fortunate to have many of Colorado’s best players wear our jersey over the past 10 or 15 years. As a coach, that makes my job incredibly easy. I simply show up prepared, set the culture, and try to execute my role to my fullest capability every day. If I do my job correctly, then the coaching staff, captains and team members drive the bus from there.”

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