Early lead fizzles in Glenwood loss to Air Academy
A fast start gave the No. 20 Glenwood Springs Demons an early lead in Wednesday’s 4A semifinal matchup at Legacy Stadium against the No. 1 Air Academy Kadets, but that fast start fizzled out in a 3-1 loss, ending one of the best seasons in program history.
Senior midfielder Leo Mireles gave the Demons a 1-0 lead with 22:29 left in the first half, slotting home a 25-yard kick into the upper right corner of the net, putting the Kadets on their heels early.
Prior to Mireles’ boot, junior Jack Rheinhold and senior Liam Mazzotta kept the play alive after junior Alan Videla started a run down the right wing. A cross into the box by Rheinhold was cleared away, but Mazzotta’s hustle kept the ball deep in Air Academy’s end before Mireles fired the shot past the diving Air Academy keeper for the 1-0 lead in Aurora.
“I was really pleased with the start,” said Wayne Smith, Glenwood Springs’ head coach. “I don’t think they really had an answer for how Leo and Alan were playing in the middle of the field, controlling the center of the field.”
Air Academy didn’t waste much time getting things evened up as junior Thaddaeus Dewing tracked down a ball played over the top of Glenwood’s back line, slotting his shot home inside the far left post past Glenwood’s diving junior goalkeeper Carlos Guardado with 19:26 left in the first half, knotting it up at 1-1.
From there, Air Academy found its footing and applied a bunch of pressure to Glenwood’s back half. Senior Jackson Kruse kept the game tied at 1-1 by clearing an Air Academy chance off the goal line before Guardado made a spectacular diving save moving right to left.
The Kadet onslaught continued until Glenwood junior Angel Bernal was given a yellow card in the 18-yard box with a high kick of the ball near Air Academy forward Andrew Passon’s face, resulting in a penalty kick for Air Academy. Fortunately for the Demons, the try by Air Academy senior Andrew Hess was wide left, keeping it at a 1-1 game for the moment.
Making up for the missed penalty kick, Hess fired a ball over the top of Glenwood’s back line again for Dewing, who beat two defenders and slipped the ball home for a 2-1 Air Academy lead heading into the locker room for halftime.
“I think Air Academy getting a penalty kick there really seemed to rattle us a bit,” Smith said. “Air Academy is a really good team, and number seven [Dewing] is one of the best player’s I’ve ever seen at the high school level. We had two of our best defenders on him marking him and he still scored. We were having a hard time trying to find an answer for him.”
Coming out of the locker room for the second half on a cold, windy night, the Demons started fast but couldn’t find that equalizing goal as Glenwood possessed the ball for much of the second half.
The inability to capitalize offensively came back to haunt the Demons as Air Academy junior Aidn Schwenke fired a shot on goal that Guardado had trouble corralling. Schwenke’s shot slipped through Guardado’s hands and across the goal line, giving Air Academy a 3-1 lead with 27:14 left in the second half.
Glenwood continued to push offensively as Videla fired a shot just outside of the right post that gave the Air Academy keeper trouble, but much like the rest of the game after Mireles’ opening marker, the Demons were inches away from getting on the board again.
From there, the Kadets played a defensive game, clearing nearly every chance for Glenwood down the field, forcing Glenwood to try and mount another attack. The Demons just couldn’t figure it out late though, falling 3-1 in the state semifinal.
The loss ends a season in which Glenwood reeled off an unbeaten streak of 10 games, and was the lowest seed remaining in the 4A state playoffs as the 20 seed.
“I told the guys that I’m so proud of them,” Smith said. “It stinks to get to this point and lose, but we made a final four run. That’s something to be incredibly proud of. These guys played their hearts out all season long. They bought in with heart, character and determination, and they did what we tried to train them to do.
“I’m not at all disappointed. Yes, we’d like to move on to the final, but I’m so proud of these guys, and they should be proud of themselves for the season they put together.”
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Down 14-7 with less than 11 minutes left in regulation, Rifle head coach Todd Casebier decided it was time to deviate from his ground-and-pound offense for a bit of an aerial attack.