Coal Ridge soccer punches ticket to 3A semifinals via Centeno overtime header; Roaring Fork bows out in Fort Collins

Coal Ridge junior defenseman Derrick Centeno bicycle kicks the ball downfield against Middle Park on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Coal Ridge soccer was trailing Middle Park 3-2 with 9 minutes and 24 seconds left. Kicking a gorgeous volley from 20 yards out, Titans junior Alexis Serna buried it in the back of the goal.

“That was a beautiful ball,” Titans head coach Michael Mikalakis said of Serna’s goal. “It takes a lot of talent to be able to strike a volley like that clean and into the net.”

The goal pushed the game into overtime, where Titans junior defenseman Derrick Centeno weaved his way into heavy traffic and somehow headed a ball from a free kick into the net for the 4-3 sudden death game winner.

What turned out to be the game-winning goal, Coal Ridge’s Derrick Centeno somehow connects the back of his head with the ball between two Middle Park defenders.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“We all went up and there’s some hands shoving,” Centeno said of the final play. “But at the end, it hit the back of my head and went right over the top of the keeper.”

Saturday’s home match between third-seeded Coal Ridge and No. 22 Middle Park saw the lead change three times, but it was the Titans prevailing in the end in front of a packed stadium.

The win now sends the Titans to the Final Four of the 3A 2022 Colorado High School Activities Association Championships. 

With seventh-seeded Peak to Peak upsetting second-seeded Jefferson Academy on Saturday, the Titans prepare to take on the Pumas at JeffCo Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood on Wednesday (time not yet determined).

The winner of this game plays the winner between Colorado Academy and Liberty Common.

“Middle Park was a worthy opponent today,” Mikalakis said. “They showed why they made it to a Great Eight. I think the big thing is, we need to make sure that we’re prepared knowing the other team is as good as we are.”

“Seeds don’t matter anymore. It’s all about the heart that you put on the field and the pride you have in your club.”

Titans junior goalkeeper Jorge Kestler makes a save against Middle Park on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

The Titans looked relatively good in the first half against Middle Park. They controlled ball possession most of the half, with clean, crisp passess at midfield.

With not too many shots on goal for either team midway through the first half, however, Coal Ridge started to apply pressure in the offensive zone. With 12:30 left, Titans senior Ethan Stickler got a good shot on goal, which punched right into the breadbasket of Panthers sophomore goalkeeper Carter Chamberlin.

The Panthers came back the other way, with Panthers senior midfielder Brady Paugh kicking the ball into the arms of Titans junior goalkeeper Jorge Kestler.

With 5 minutes to go, Titans freshman Giovanni Parker got fouled inside the Panthers’ 18. This set up Titans senior Ezra Williams on a penalty kick, which he buried past Chamberlin to go up 1-0.

The Panthers answered back nearly eight minutes into the second half when senior Corbin Solomon made a good pass from outside the Titans’ 18 to connect with Paugh, who blasted it past Kestler.

Coal Ridge senior Ezra Williams, far right, scores on a penalty kick against Middle Park on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

About seven minutes later, Serna dribbled the ball down the sideline and made an accurate pass to senior teammate Abraham Roman, who notched Coal Ridge’s second goal of the match.

The Panthers then scored two gutchecking goals within two minutes of each other to go up 3-2.  Solomon scored at 19:34, while Panthers freshman Cristian Armador netted the go-ahead goal at 18:47.

“We got too far ahead of ourselves when we got that first goal,” Centeno said. “When we went into halftime, everyone settled a little bit. But (Middle Park) came out stronger than ever and scored two goals back to back to get ahead of us.” 

Coal Ridge junior Derrick Centeno heads the ball against Middle Park on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

This is when Serna defied gravity with an unbelievable goal he scored from 20 yards out. The ball soared past a diving Chamberlin into the back of the net.

“I felt like everyone was hyped up when we got into a huddle,” Centeno said of going into overtime. “Everyone was like, ‘Hey, we’re not done, it’s time to pick it up.’

“Huge thanks to Alexis for making that volley.”

Centeno then netted the game winner via header with less than seven minutes remaining in overtime.

Now, it’s off to the Front Range.

“We’re excited now,” Centeno said. “Everyone believes in each other, and we’re ready to go.”

Roaring Fork title defense ends in shutout at Liberty Common

Playing at 4th-seeded Liberty Common in Fort Collins on Saturday, the No. 5 Roaring Fork Rams of Carbondale suffered a 3-0 quarterfinal loss to end their season and hopes of a 3A state title defense.

The 2021 state champions got scored on early and couldn’t quite get their game going, despite a few chances to sneak back into it in the second half. The Rams conclude their season at 15-3 overall, finishing 7-1 and second to Coal Ridge in the 3A Western Slope League.

“We lost to a strong team, and just couldn’t capitalize when we had the chance,” Roaring Fork head coach Nick Forbes said of the Eagles, who also handed the Rams one of only two regular season losses this fall. The other loss came to Coal Ridge.

“That’s how the game goes sometimes,” Forbes said of the Saturday quarterfinal loss. “It was a really great experience for our very young team, and we look to learn from this and build for next year.”

The Rams should return the core of their team, but the loss marked the final game for several seniors who will graduate from the Roaring Fork program and have been part of one of the most successful varsity 3A programs in Colorado over the last four years.

“Special thanks to our seniors, who played and led with great maturity,” Forbes said.

Among them are Emi Magana, the all-time leading scorer for the Rams; Daniel Vega, a four-year varsity starter and co-captain this year; co-caption Max Brooke; goalkeeper Diego Loya; and defensive back Bryan Rascon.

Other seniors on the Rams fall roster include Alex Martinez, Ivan Pereida, Ivan Esqivel-Osorto, Gabe Serson, Cormac Shanks and David Miranda.

— Rams report by John Stroud

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