Coal Ridge soccer’s Cinderella run cut short at state championship, losing 3-1

Coal Ridge senior Derrick Centeno hugs a teammate after the 3A state championship game in Colorado Springs.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Colorado Academy junior Mengistu Caleb dribbled through traffic and buried one past Coal Ridge sophomore goalie Colbran Ingelhart in the eighth minute. Titans junior Isaac Thompson answered back early in the second half, booting a bounce from a foul kick past Mustangs junior goalie Clyde Love.

Thompson’s goal tied the 3A state championship game 1-1 in the 51st minute on Saturday in Colorado Springs. The Mustangs, however, scored two more goals in the 60th and 69th minutes, respectively, which put away Coal Ridge 3-1.

The two insurance goals were enough to win Colorado Academy its seventh 3A championship since 1998 — the Mustangs’ third in the past four years. On the flipside, Coal Ridge now has four state semifinals and one championship appearance under its belt — but no title.

Coal Ridge junior Bradan Mccorkel walks out onto the field on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“I just want to say I love this team,” said Coal Ridge senior captain Derrick Centeno. “We tried so hard, we worked so hard. This has been the greatest season I’ve had. This has been so special making it this far, coming in with upsets and everything. 

“We almost finished our Cinderella season,” he said.

Coal Ridge’s season was marked early on by struggles. The Titans, which lost the 2022-23 state semifinals to Peak to Peak, notched losses to Kent Denver, Vail Mountain and Grand Junction to start this season. Coal Ridge also lost 1-0 to Rifle — a team they’ve consistently beaten — in October.

Coal Ridge soccer stands for the Star Spangled Banner before the start of the 3A state championship game in Colorado Springs.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

But these losses didn’t dissuade Coal Ridge from regaining its footing. In the 3A playoffs, the No. 15-ranked Titans got their revenge on No. 2 Kent Denver, upsetting the Sun Devils 3-2. In the next round, Coal Ridge beat No. 7-ranked Frontier Academy 1-0.

Then, in the semifinals, Coal Ridge punched its ticket to the championship with a 1-0 over Rifle. Coal Ridge head coach Michael Mikalakis said the struggle his team had early on in the season is what he loves the most.

“You look at our record, nobody would’ve thought that we would’ve been here. But the kids believed in themselves,” he said. “We beat some really, really great teams coming through. It was fun.”

Coal Ridge sophomore Giovanni Parker defends against Colorado Academy senior Jackson Lieberman in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Coal Ridge struggled to maintain possession early on during Saturday’s game. But after Caleb’s goal, the Titans saw two scoring chances in the 12th and 13th minutes. By the second half, the pressure paid off as Thompson kept his composure to net his goal in the 51st minute.

“I saw (the ball) deflect, I saw it just go to my foot, i hit it down, it missed the keeper, and it just went in,” Thompson said. “In the first half, we were playing kind of scared and intimidated, and so we just kept pushing on their back line. You could just see all of us just laid it all out there. All of our players were going 100%.”

Coal Ridge junior Isaac Thompson jumps over Colorado Academy goalie Clyde Love during a scoring attempt.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

But as the Titans’ momentum subsided, Colorado Academy senior Simeon Woldeyohannes put on the jets in the 60th minute, dribbling past a few Titans defenders to beat Ingelhart in the right corner of the net. The Mustangs then added their insurance goal when senior Nic Jeffries passed it from the offensive corner to junior Christoff Zimmerman, who scored from near the top of the goal box.

With the championship game loss, the Titans ended its 2023 season 12-4-5.

But for Mikalakis, the buck doesn’t stop there.

“For the future, we knocked down that door once,” he said. “Let’s knock it down again.”

Coal Ridge junior Isaac Thompson celebrates after scoring a goal during the 3A state championship game in Colorado Springs.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
Coal Ridge senior Alexis Serna plays the ball against a Colorado Academy defender during the 3A state championship game in Colorado Springs on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

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