Coal Ridge opens 3A soccer playoffs with 3-0 win over Middle Park
Post Independent correspondent
It took them a little while to get going on Thursday night at their home field known as “The Pasture,” but the Coal Ridge Titans finally shifted offensive gears midway through the opening half in the first round of the 3A state soccer playoffs against the Middle Park Panthers to secure a convincing 3-0 win.
“In those first 15 minutes of the game, we were just trying to get the feel of how we needed to play,” veteran Coal Ridge coach Mike Mikalakis said of the undefeated Titans. “Once we started to control the possessions on the field, we felt we could move the ball wherever we wanted to.”
The game’s scoreless deadlock was broken with 15:53 to play in the first, when Titan junior Eddie Salazar booted a perfectly placed corner kick to senior Samuel Fulk, who was poised in front of Middle Park goalie Ethan Ruttenberg. Fulk redirected the ball past Ruttenberg and into the net to give Coal Ridge a lead they would never relinquish.
With Middle Park — runner-up in the 2A/3A Frontier League — providing little offensive threat to Titan goalkeeper Cody Connor, Coal Ridge decided it was time to get itshigh-powered offense going and break the game open.
It came to happen in dramatic fashion off the foot of senior Moises Contreras.
Racing at breakneck speed along the sideline near the north goal, Contreras spun a high and winding shot into the top corner of the Panther net to give the Titans a 2-0 advantage at the 29:19 mark of the second half. Contreras was mobbed by his teammates, helping to provide some extra motivational juice to the potent Coal Ridge attack.
With the offense stepping up to take center stage, the Coal Ridge defensemen continued to do their quiet, yeoman work of keeping the Panthers on their own side of the field for most of the evening.
“Our defensive line of Caleb Thompson, Derrick Centeno, Dominic Centeno, and Moises (Contreras) were dominant in the backfield. They helped Cody (Connor) to his sixth shutout of the season,” Mikalakis said.
With 12:33 showing on the game clock, sophomore Ezra Williams provided the finishing touches on the game’s scoring for Coal Ridge with a hard shot from the middle of the field that found the back of the Panther net. Meanwhile, Middle Park never mounted any serious shots at the Coal Ridge net.
Coal Ridge (10-0), the No. 5 overall seed in the class 3A playoffs, will have one day to rest until they make a trip to Denver on Saturday to face No. 4 KIPP Denver Collegiate in the state quarterfinal round. The White Tigers were 1-0 winners over Alamosa Thursday.
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