State soccer: Loss tough to swallow for Rams
CARBONDALE — Roaring Fork High School’s boys soccer team built a big lead headed into the final 20 minutes of its Class 3A state playoff game against Peak to Peak on Saturday. The Pumas made sure it wasn’t big enough.
And by doing that, Peak to Peak handed the Rams a second consecutive agonizing loss in the early rounds of the postseason, rallying from a two-goal deficit with 20 minutes remaining for a stunning 4-3 overtime victory over third-seeded Roaring Fork at Carbondale Middle School.
“That’s the toughest way for anyone to get knocked out [of the playoffs],” said senior Eric Carrillo as he fought back tears.
The game-winning golden goal came off the foot of Peak to Peak freshman Brenden Lefkowicz, who lined up a free kick from 55 yards away from the goal with 12 minutes gone in overtime. He lofted the ball into the air and toward the net and, after Roaring Fork goalie Colin O’gorman came forward, the ball took a high bounce and rolled into the net for the golden-goal winner.
It sparked a huge celebration for the 19th-seeded Pumas (9-8-0), who needed to go to overtime and then penalty kicks to beat Pagosa Springs in Friday’s first round. Lefkowicz jumped into the air and celebrated his goal when the ball rolled in, and his teammates on and off the field mobbed him in celebration.
Meanwhile, Roaring Fork’s players were shocked, with many of them collapsing onto the field in disbelief.
“Roaring Fork is a fantastic team,” Peak to Peak coach Joe Swanson said. “To me, this is one of the best comebacks that we’ve ever had.”
With the win, the Pumas will move on to play sixth-seeded Colorado Academy, a 1-0 winner over Sheridan in another second-round game on Saturday. With the loss, Roaring Fork, this year’s 3A Western Slope League champion, finished the season 14-3-0 overall.
“This one is a little harder to swallow than last year,” said Roaring Fork coach Nick Forbes, whose team lost 1-0 in the first round to Fountain-Fort Carson in last year’s first round. “In that game, we didn’t show up. In this game, we showed up, we played with heart and we played a really good game. I just think that some terrible referee decisions in the midfield led to three of their goals.”
For sure, three of those goals came off free kicks. William Swanson’s free kick in the 45th minute deflected off a Roaring Fork player and into the net in the 45th minute, Nathan Dee headed in a Peak to Peak indirect kick that came from 45 yards away in the 73rd minute, and Lefkowicz scored his game winner. Roaring Fork took a 2-0 halftime lead on goals from Aaron Palomera in the seventh minute and a goal off a rebound from Carrillo in the 30th minute.
After Roaring Fork’s own goal off the foot of Swanson pulled the Pumas within a goal, Palomera was tripped on an approach to the net inside of the goal box. Lalo Clemente converted the penalty kick in the 57th minute, and the Rams had regained a two-goal cushion.
Lefkowicz, however, scored on a far-post shot from the left side of the box the pull the Pumas within one in the 69th minute before Dee tied it in the 73rd at 3-3. The Rams had a chance to win it right before the end of regulation, however, but the shot by senior Ben Carpenter from 10 yards away clanged off the bottom of the left goal post.
Carpenter and Carrillo each got shots off in the fourth minute of overtime, but the Pumas couldn’t get near the net. That’s when Lefkowicz’s goal proved to be the biggest factor, ending the Rams’ season much sooner than they anticipated.
“The league championship was a big thing,” Carrillo said. “But everyone on the team got really close this year. We became the best that we could be.”
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The Glenwood Springs-Rifle sports rivalry goes way back for GSHS baseball coach and former Demons multi-sport student-athlete Eric Nieslanik.