ARVADA — Arvada West and Ralston Valley boys soccer programs have been here before — head-to-head with the Class 5A Jeffco League title on the line.
In a must-win situation for Ralston Valley’s postseason and conference championship hopes, the Mustangs came through with a 4-1 victory over rival A-West (10-5, 6-1 in 5A Jeffco) on Tuesday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
“It was 100 percent a must-win for us,” Ralston Valley coach Jamie Scarcliff said. “It was a big game for us, but they preformed. We got some awesome goals and they worked really hard together.”
If Ralston Valley (6-7, 5-1) defeats Columbine (2-10-2, 1-3-2) in its conference finale Thursday night at Lakewood Memorial Field, the Mustangs will finish tied with A-West for the league title. Ralston Valley will have the head-to-head tiebreak against A-West.
“We know any team in our league can beat anyone,” Ralston Valley junior Mason Miller said. “Everyone plays everyone hard. We’ll be ready to go on Thursday.”
The playoff situation is still up in the air for 5A Jeffco teams. The conference receives two automatic bids to the 32-team state tournament. If the Mustangs take care of business against the Rebels, Ralston Valley and A-West will be slotted into automatic berths for the 32-team state tournament. That’s important since going into Tuesday’s game Ralston Valley was No. 35 and A-West was No. 32 in RPI.
Lakewood (10-3-1, 5-1-1) would finish third, but the Tigers will likely have enough RPI points to make the field. The Tigers were No. 22 in RPI before games Tuesday.
A loss to Columbine would likely leave Ralston Valley out of the postseason and leave A-West and Lakewood as the lone 5A Jeffco teams to make the tournament.
“We still have to take care of business on Thursday,” Scarcliff said. “If we don’t show up everything we did tonight kind of sets us back.”
A win Thursday and Ralston Valley would repeat as 5A Jeffco League champs after a rough start to the season.
“Five losses in the very beginning doesn’t look great, but we have definitely turned it around, Ralston Valley senior Kyle Stern said. “Hopefully we get into the playoffs.”
Sterns gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead against A-West at the 11-minute mark in the first half. The Mustangs extended the lead when senior Nick Nowlen knocked in a corner kick in the 35th minute.
The Mustangs pushed their lead to 3-0 six minutes into the second half when Miller put one into the back of the net.
“Coming out in the second half with a 2-0 lead we knew the next goal would be a momentum shift,” said Miller, who scored the game-winning goal a year ago against A-West. “We knew we had to get it.”
Senior Ben Gelman put Ralston Valley up 4-0 in the 77th minute. A-West did prevent the shutout with A-West senior Steven Hoffman scoring in the final minute to make the final score 4-1.
“It was hard starting off the season the way we did. We rallied as a team knowing at the end of the year we would play our biggest rival A-West,” Miller said. “Wins before this game made it easy to come in here with confidence.”
A year ago, Ralston Valley defeated rival A-West 2-1 in the league finale for both teams. The Mustangs’ victory in what was the winner-take-all situation for the conference title prevented the Wildcats from winning their fifth league title in six years.
It’s been a season of streaks for A-West. The Wildcats opened the season with a 4-game winning streak, but preceded to drop four straight non-league games before getting into conference play. A-West reeled off six consecutive conference wins over the pasts five weeks before losing to Ralston Valley.
The Wildcats will now wait to see where they are seeded for the state tournament. The state bracket will be released on CHSAANow.com on Sunday.
After Thursday’s game against Columbine, Ralston Valley wraps up its regular season with a non-league contest against Evergreen (5 p.m. Friday at NAAC).
“We want to be hitting our peak at the end of the season,” Miller said. “We feel like that is where we are going. That’s what we planned and that’s what working out.”