Bears get a Legg up on Brighton

Phil Sandoval

RIFLE – Gerri Legg provided the confidence and two goals. Goalie Megan Burner made a crucial save. Those two plays, along with aggressive play, allowed Rifle to move on to the Sweet 16 of the Class 4A girls state soccer playoffs.

“Everyone on the team knew we were going to win this game,” said Legg of Saturday’s 5-1 blowout over Brighton.

“Coach (Tom Taucher) told us to go out aggressive and win the air war, we won those 50-50 balls.”

From the opening whistle the Bears did exactly what Taucher instructed them to do, only to see the strategy backfire in the first few minutes.

Aubrie Smith scored the game’s initial goal off a cornerkick, set up by a Bear defender’s inability to control the ball by the touchline.

Legg erased Brighton’s 1-0 lead six minutes later.

The sophomore forward poked the ball into an open net after Bulldog goalie Rhiannon Lupfer strayed out of the penalty area.

Legg scored the game-winning goal in the 26th minute on a penalty kick after Brighton committed a foul inside the goalie box.

“I was aiming for the low left corner, but it went far right,” Legg said of penalty shot. “But, when it went in, I didn’t care.”

The Bears carried the 2-1 lead into the second half, but early on couldn’t add to their lead.

Lupfer stopped Alicia Kuhn’s shot headed for the upper corner of the goal. Then Brighton got a break.

Ashley Gavito was called for a foul in the box, setting up a Bulldog penalty kick.

“I was so scared,” Burner said of waiting for Sarah Carns to try the penalty kick. “It’s just a guessing game on penalty shots, so I was watching her feet, because looking at the eyes is deceiving. I had nothing to lose and I thought I could get it.”

Burner timed Carns move perfectly.

Leaping high with arms outstretched, the Bear keeper flicked away Carns’ shot. And Brighton’s hope of victory vanished on the save.

“I thought, `Oh my God, I stopped a penalty kick,” recalled Burner of the play. “Then I realized there was a game going on.”

From that point on, the game was all Rifle. Brenda Cruz scored an insurance goal with 12 minutes left. Haley Hubbell and Nicole Erpested added goals late in the second half for a rout.

Rifle’s next playoff opponent will be released by the Colorado High School Activities Association today.

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