Rams march on in Carbondale, down James Irwin 3-0 in second round of 3A playoffs

Roaring Fork senior Daniel Vega works the ball against James Irwin defender Guiovanni Luna Serapio during the Rams' 3-0 second-round state 3A soccer playoff win Tuesday, Nov. 1 in Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Roaring Fork had to shake off a sluggish start to its second-round 3A boys Colorado state soccer playoff game Tuesday in Carbondale, but once the Rams found their groove it was business as usual.

Playing with head coach Nick Forbes in the “far east stands” observing from White Hill above Rams stadium due to a positive COVID test, No. 5 Roaring Fork had some extra motivation to prove they are in fact the defending state champs, rallying in the second half to beat 12th-seeded James Irwin Charter School of Colorado Springs, 3-0.

The Jaguars came in hot off a 3-1 comeback win last week over No. 21 Basalt.

“This one’s for Nick,” longtime Rams assistant coach Jeff Mohsenin said. “All the boys thought about that before the game, and they played for him.” 

After a scoreless first half that saw the Rams having to fend off push after push from an aggressive Jaguars team, it was junior, Jacob Barlow, who righted the ship in the 41st minute, picking the ball out of a crowd in front of the goal to kick it in.

“We just told the boys to calm down, and that they were going a little bit too fast and wanting it too much in the first half,” Mohsenin said. “Once we backed off and played our game, working the line of confrontation in the midfield, we were able to attack off that.”  

A series of yellow cards against players on both teams as the game intensified, marred play for the next 19 minutes after Barlow’s goal, before junior, Josh Hernandez, played the rebound off a free kick into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Instead of playing back, the Rams kept the pressure on, coming up short on several scoring opportunities until sophomore Fernando Rodriguez got the insurance goal inside 3 minutes to play.

Hernandez was ecstatic just to be a part of his team’s postseason after missing much of the season with an injury but returning just in time for the playoffs.

“It really means a lot to be able to play,” Hernandez said. “I thought I’d be out the whole season, but I just had to keep a cool mind, stick with the physical therapy and come back stronger.”

Tres puntuaciones! Roaring Fork junior Josh Hernandez celebrates the Rams’ 3-0 win over James Irwin Tuesday in Carbondale to advance to the Elite 8 of the 3A state soccer playoffs.
John Stroud/Post Independent

It was a similar mindset for the Rams in the second half of Tuesday’s game to advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals.  

“We knew we just had to stay composed, because we weren’t keeping our head, and we weren’t playing our game in the first half,” Hernandez said. 

The win sets up a rematch for Roaring Fork on the road at No. 4 Liberty Common in Fort Collins. The Eagles were 4-1 winners over Aurora West Prep Tuesday, and were one of just two teams that handed the 15-2 Rams a loss during the regular season — a lopsided 6-1 decision on Sept. 17 in Carbondale.

“That last time they hit us early for a quick strike, but we’ve played them several times deep in the playoffs the last five years so we know what we’re up against,” Mohsenin said. “We just have to be solid and play the best we can. If we can share the ball and keep our shape and trust each other, we should be fine.”

In the other second-round 3A playoff game locally Tuesday, No. 3 Coal Ridge, the Western Slope League champions, downed No. 19 Faith Christian in New Castle. The Titans are to host No. 22 Middle Park on Saturday, 2-1 upset winners over No. 6 KIPP Denver Tuesday.

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