Early goal holds up for Fort Collins boys soccer in win over Ralston Valley

Ralston Valley senior Dylan Konz (10) battles with Fort Collins sophomore Connor Lowdermilk (17) during the Class 5A state tournament opener round game Thursday at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada. (Dennis Pleuss)

Ralston Valley senior Dylan Konz (10) battles with Fort Collins sophomore Connor Lowdermilk (17) during the Class 5A state tournament opener round game Thursday at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada. (Dennis Pleuss)

ARVADA -- Early and often was a motto the boys soccer team from Fort Collins used Thursday night in its opening Class 5A playoff game.

The 17th-seeded Lambkins knew 16th-seeded Ralston Valley would want to put some early offensive pressure playing on its home field at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada. Fort Collins countered with some early offensive fireworks of its own with a goal in the 9th minute that held up for a 1-0 victory.

“The whole thing coming into this game is (Ralston Valley) starts fast. They start quick,” Fort Collins senior Zach Fronapfel said. “We made them chase us and it worked.”

Ralston Valley junior Nic Snyder, left, attempt to find a way past Fort Collins junior Josh Nelson on Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada. The Lambkins took a 1-0 victory in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament and will face top-seed Smoky Hill next Wednesday.  (Dennis Pleuss)

Ralston Valley junior Nic Snyder, left, attempt to find a way past Fort Collins junior Josh Nelson on Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex in Arvada. The Lambkins took a 1-0 victory in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament and will face top-seed Smoky Hill next Wednesday. (Dennis Pleuss)

Fronapfel scored the lone goal with a header that beat Ralston Valley junior goalie Antonio Celano. The feed to Fronapfel came off the foot of senior Austin Rudd.

The play started when Rudd threw in a long throw-in, but got the ball back on his foot when Ralston Valley cleared it out of the goalie box.

“I saw (Fronapfel) and played it in,” Rudd said. “He was in the perfect spot. It was amazing.”

Ralston Valley applied some pressure late in the game, but couldn’t score the equalizer on Fort Collins junior goalie Jack Jordan.

“We fought like crazy,” Ralston Valley coach Kyle Kazemi said of the final offensive flurry by the Mustangs in the closing minutes.

Ralston Valley ended its season with a 10-5-1 record, finishing third in the 5A Jeffco League.

“This group only expected success,” Kazemi said. “This is really heartbreaking. Not the fact we lost, but they no longer get to do the thing they do, play as a team.”

Fort Collins (8-4-4) moves on to the second round where the Lambkins will face top-seeded Smoky Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 30. The Buffaloes defeated Westminster 7-1 in the opening round.

Fronapfel said the road victory over Ralston Valley would give the Lambkins some good momentum heading into the round of 16.

“We know now we can go on the road and get a win in the playoff,” Fronapfel said.