State tournament pairings are often debated and criticized when they are revealed by the Colorado High School Activities Association.
That was the case for this season’s boys state tournament bracket when Cherry Creek was the last team selected for the state tournament and was the No. 16 seed.
However, the Bruins beat top-seed Regis Jesuit, No. 9 Boulder and fourth-seeded Grandview to advance to the state championship game, which was played May 1 at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.
Second-seeded Fairview ended Creek’s magical playoff run with a 2-0 victory as the Knights claimed their first boys state soccer title.
“Things just came together for us,” said Creek’s junior team captain Cyrus Gulati. “We had one practice just before playoffs that coach put us through that kind of brought us together. He made us run for two hours straight. That just helped us click for the playoffs.
“A lot of people weren’t expecting us to be in the finals. We shocked everyone by being the 16thseed and made it to the finals. We beat Regis which was the first seed in the first round and that woke a lot of people up.”
After the loss to Fairview (13-0-1), Creek finished the abbreviated COVID-shortened season with a 9-5 record.
“The team played hard but first let me congratulate Fairview,” said Creek coach Wilmer Barrera. “Fairview was such a great team and they deserve it. We were the 16th seed and everyone said, ‘oh they’re gone in the first round.’ There was a group that criticized us saying ‘oh why are they in the playoffs?’ We proved why. I cannot be more proud of those boys and to be at Creek. At the end of the day it is all about the journey.”
Creek goalie Knox Quarles and the defenders in front of him were sharp in the scoreless first half.
The Bruins had a chance to take the lead when Cyrus Gulati was tripped in the penalty area in the 46thminute. Carter Koui took the penalty kick for the Bruins but his attempt sailed high over the goal.
Six minutes later Fairview’s Sebastein Mazur booted a high shot from 30 yards away that Quarles leaped for but the ball deflected into the net.
Cherry Creek kept offense pressure on the Knights but Tristan Hird scored for Fairview in the 79thminute to seal the win which denied the Bruins a chance to win their seventh state boys soccer title.
“I can’t say anything that our defense did wrong,” added Barrera. “Look at Fairview’s first goal, a 30-yard shot. It was a great shot. Soccer is about momentum. We we had momentum, we got the PK and we missed it. It would have been a different game at that point. Two or three minutes after that, they scored.
“It’s part of the game. That’s what I love about this game, you never know.”
During the semifinals, there was a sign taped to the railing in front of the Cherry Creek fans and students that read: Bracket Busters.
And Creek kept its hot postseason run going with a 2-0 semifinal win over Centennial League rival Grandview on April 28 at Englewood High School.
Carsten Jones launched a high free kick from the left side of the pitch and the ball went into the top right corner of the goal to give Creek a 1-0 lead in the 22ndminute. Macklin Riley pushed the Bruins ahead 2-0 on a deflected shot 30 minutes into the game and then the Creek defense withstood heavy second half Grandview pressure to secure the win.
“The first goal was the key,” said Barrera. “We knew that if we scored first that we are going to have the mindset that we are here.”
Grandview coach Brian Wood felt his team was tentative early and it was hard to comeback after Creek went ahead.
“That first goal was huge,” he said. “We knew the first goal was probably going to be the difference in the game because both teams defend real well and once they got one, it was really hard to break them down.
“We played a little tentative in the beginning and I tried to loosen them up before the game but they were still a little tentative. That hurt us but Cherry Creek did a great job.”
Grandview finished the season with an 11-2 record and both setbacks were dealt by Cherry Creek which beat the Wolves, 3-1, on March 23.
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