Roaring Fork boys soccer team bounces back to advance to first state championship
DENVER — As time dwindled in the second half, the Roaring Fork High School boys soccer team had a strong sense of deja vu.
The fifth-seeded Rams were tied at 0 with No. 1 Salida in the Class 3A state semifinals Wednesday night, and it looked like they were heading to overtime.
In the same round of the state championships last year, Roaring Fork battled to a shootout but fell 2-1, ending its season.
But the narrative changed dramatically this time around at All City Stadium.
The Rams came from behind late in the second half to tie the game. And in overtime, they were finally victorious.
Roaring Fork (15-2-1 overall) scored with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the extra period to upset the top seed 2-1 and secure their first bid to the championship game in school history.
“To tell you the truth, I was kind of consigning to another semifinal exit,” coach Nick Forbes said. “And then Ross (Barlow) pulls out a special moment.”
With 7:14 remaining in regulation, Salida (17-1-1) deflated the Rams’ hopes as junior Kai Brown scored on a wide open shot to take a 1-0 lead.
RF junior goalkeeper Noah Wheeless had come out of the goal to help defend, but Brown slipped by him and sailed the ball into the net.
“Once they scored I felt the whole team just come down,” said Wheeless, who had five saves on the night. “I felt terrible. I was like ‘that was my fault’ and everyone (said) ‘no, we’re a team. We’re gonna win and we’re gonna lose together.
“And then that magic just happened.”
The Rams began to push hard on offense and had a couple of opportunities, but they couldn’t capitalize. Then, sophomore Barlow was left open in the back post and he slipped the ball past the goalie into the right corner with 1:20 left to tie the game at 1.
As the overtime period began, both sides played with urgency to start, but Barlow said he and his teammates began to slow down and play smarter.
Roaring Fork started controlling the ball and opened up a couple shots on goal. After a shot by sophomore Jose Mercado Jr. missed, the Rams got a corner kick. While battling for the ball, a Salida player committed a penalty right outside the net.
Barlow got set up for the penalty kick in the box and with 3:32 left on the clock, he knocked the ball into the left corner for the win.
“I just took a couple deep breaths before that PK and put it in,” Barlow said.
Now, despite playing in their first championship game, the Rams are feeling confident, especially since they have only allowed one goal in the postseason and took 14 shots on goal against Salida.
Roaring Fork will take on defending 3A state champs Kent Denver — 4-2 winners over Atlas Preparatory School in the night cap Wednesday — at 11 a.m. Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
“I think our defensive collectiveness is really strong, and you can see it when we play,” Forbes said. “They kind of had a little dip right at the end of the season, (but) right now they’re finding their best form and that’s all you can ask for as a coach is (to) find it when it matters.”
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