PARKER | The Grandview boys soccer team isn’t yet at a point where it expects to be in the Class 5A state semifinals every year, but perhaps 2017 was a beginning.
The Wolves exceeded all expectations with their run to the Final Four, which ended Wednesday night in a 1-0 overtime loss to Denver East on at frosty EchoPark Automotive Stadium.
In a battle of the two stingiest defenses in the state all season, Denver East finally broke through five minutes into the first extra period to earn a spot in the 5A state championship game Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where it will oppose seventh-seeded Broomfield, a 3-1 winner over No. 3 Fort Collins.
“Denver East outplayed us tonight, they were the better team,” Grandview coach Brian Wood said.
While missing out on a trip to the championship game, Wood’s team finished 16-3 overall, won the Centennial League championship and put the program in the 5A semifinals for the first time since 2007, when it lost to Smoky Hill in the final.
The Wolves simply couldn’t find their way past keeper Victor Yague Izquierdo and a Denver East defense that has yielded a state-low seven goals in 19 games.
Grandview’s best chance came midway through the first half when sophomore Ivan Luna got the ball at point blank range and fired it at the net, where Yague Izquierdo managed to knock it down while falling backwards into the goal.
Other than that, the Wolves were unable to convert the set pieces that they’ve been so successful at with their presence in the air, as they couldn’t finish on two corner kicks and a variety of free kick chances.
“We just didn’t have enough going for us tonight and their defense was really solid,” senior midfielder Josh Pyle said. “It was unfortunate.”
Added Wood: “We just could not break them down.”
The Wolves’ defense — which had yielded only one more goal than Denver East had in the same amount of games — held serve against an attack with significant speed and skill across the board.
Senior goalkeeper Eddie St. Martin made a fabulous one-handed save on a shot headed toward the top corner of the goal in the 17th minute and Grandview’s “No Fly Zone” defense — which hadn’t yielded a goal since Oct. 15 — largely neutralized an offense that averaged three goals per game coming in.
Denver East grew more dangerous in the second half and put a handful of shots on St. Martin, who was equal to the task, then thought it had the game-winning goal with just 37.3 seconds remaining.
Senior Sam Carson scored for the Angels, however the play was ruled offside.
Five minutes into overtime, Denver East scored a goal that did count when Benji Gutierrez passed to Carson, who fed it back to Gutierrez on the wing for the finish.
“It was probably one of the best games we’ve had; we played our hearts out and it just didn’t go our way,” St. Martin said. “We didn’t expect to get this far this year, so it was something to remember.
“I’ll never think of this as a bad memory, I’ll remember this as one of the best seasons of my life.”
Pyle also enjoyed the experience despite the end result.
“We played as a team and we played as a family,” he said. “I’m glad I got to spend my last high school game out here with these boys.”
Grandview graduates a handful of key seniors, including half of its backline in Kyle Hernandez and AJ Watters (who had the game-winning goal in the Wolves’ quarterfinal win over Fairview) and St. Martin, but expect to return a large junior class and others who got a great look at what it takes to win in the postseason.
The other half of the “No Fly Zone” is expected back in juniors Peter Goldy and Raymond Jackson, plus both of the Wolves’ double-digit goal scorers in juniors Angelo Mujica (13) and Jamie Luna (10) and its two assist leaders in Jackson and junior midfielder Ian Oltman (seven apiece).
“We set a precedent this season and hopefully we can carry it forward,” Wood said. “Denver East lost in the semis last year and now they are in the finals, so hopefully we can do that.”
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
(1) DENVER EAST 1, (5) GRANDVIEW 0 (OT)
Score by halves:
Grandview 0 0 0 — 0
Denver East 0 0 1 — 1
Denver East — Benji Gutierrez (Sam Carson), 85th minute
Fouls — Denver East 9, Grandview 5. Corner kicks — Denver East 3, Grandview 2