Demons, ‘Horns gear up for state soccer round of 16 |

Demons, ‘Horns gear up for state soccer round of 16

G. Sean Kelly

It’s called the sweet 16, but getting to the round of eight in the state soccer tournament would be much sweeter for the Glenwood Springs and Basalt high school soccer teams.

Glenwood will likely have a tougher go in the Class 4A playoffs than Basalt will in the 3A.

Despite winning the 4A Western Slope League title and easily dispatching Brighton 4-0 in the regional round last weekend, Glenwood (11-3-1) was given just a 12th seed in the state bracket.

With the high seed comes a road game against a tough team in fifth-seed Mullen (10-2-3) out of the Centennial Conference. The contest is slated for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mullen High School in Denver.

“They use formulas for seeding, and it’s hard to say if they are right or wrong,” Glenwood Springs head coach Bob Guska said. “The truth will come out when we play Saturday.”

Mullen plays a primarily 5A schedule during the regular season and was ranked No. 7 in the state in last week’s Class 4A Denver Post poll. The Mustangs advanced to the round of 16 with a 3-0 victory over Silver Creek last weekend.

As would be expected with a Western Slope team facing a team off the Eastern Slope, the teams know little about each other. The only common opponent this season is Rifle, and the results were similar. Mullen downed the Bears 2-1 in Rifle. The Demons tied the Bears 1-1 in Rifle and earned a 2-1 victory at home this season.

On paper, Glenwood has the offensive advantage with three players listed on the state scoring list before Mullen’s top scorer.

The Demons, who average three goals per game, are led by Ross Smith – tied for fourth in the league with 17 goals – Derek Weller (12 goals) and Ian Lochhead (9).

Mullen, which averages two goals per game, is lead by John McClain with seven goals and Brian Sheehan with five goals.

But the Eastern Slope teams get respect when it comes to state seeding, and, with that, the intangible advantage of home-field advantage.

“I think the way the boys feel right now they are ready to play and feel confident,” Guska said. “We’re going to fine-tune a couple of plays and be as ready as we can be. We’re in a position to have no regrets.

“We’re going to win until somebody better than us beats us,” he continued. “If some team can beat us when we’re at full strength, god bless them, I hope they win the state championship.”

The winner of Saturday’s game faces the either fourth-seed Lewis Palmer or 13th-seed Englewood in the next round.

Unlike Glenwood, Basalt did get some respect in the seeding for the 3A state tournament. The 3A Western Slope League champion and No. 5-seed Longhorns (11-3-1) also received a bye in the regional round, so the squad should be hungry for Friday’s 4 p.m. game against 12th-seed Middle Park (6-7-2) at Basalt High School.

Basalt, which was ranked third in last week’s Denver Post soccer poll, has had some success over Eastern Slope teams this year. Basalt downed fourth-ranked Faith Christian 3-1 during the regular season, while Middle Park lost 4-0 to the Metro League rival.

Middle Park does have a legitimate scoring threat in Colin Newell, who has 16 of Panthers’ 35 goals.

Basalt averages almost three goals per game and spreads the offense out with three players boasting nine goals or more. Spencer Cleveland leads the Longhorns with 14 goals this season. Ryan Thompson and Brady Kahn have 10 and nine goals, respectively.

The winner of Friday’s contest will play the winner of the today’s game between fourth-seed Kent Denver and 13th-seed Denver Christian.

Quarterfinal games in both Class 3A and 4A must be completed by Oct. 30. The higher seed has home field through the quarterfinal round.

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