COMMERCE CITY -- Forward Christian Nehme knew his team would win the state title after he blasted in a goal from eight yards with 3:59 remaining.
“As soon as the ball went back into the net," Nehme said, "I realized we were going to win."
Nehme and Cheyenne Mountain were crowned Class 4A boys soccer state champions after beating Pikes Peak league rival Air Academy 2-1 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday.
“We knew we could hang with them,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said. “ We just needed to weather their storms."
Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy each played tough defense throughout the first 38 minutes. After 25 minutes, Air Academy led Cheyenne Mountain with three in shots on goal to one. But the offensive pressure shifted in Cheyenne Mountain’s favor with around 20 minutes left when John Herd got his legs taken out from underneath him, and was fouled. Herd took the shot from the top of the 18, but it sailed over the top right corner with 12 minutes left in the half.
Herd made sure his very next shot found the back of the net. With 2:18 left in the first half, he scored on a left-footed strike at the back-right corner past Air Academy goalkeeper Matthew Pipan from 15 yards. Herd’s goal put Cheyenne Mountain up 1-0 before the whistle for halftime.
The goal was Herd’s second goal of the tournament, and 13th of the season -- tying midfielder David McDermed for the team-high. Coming into Saturday's game, Pippan had allowed just one goal in the state tournament.
Air Academy applied a ton of offensive pressure in the second half. Their pesky offense frustrated Cheyenne Mountain’s defense. Defender Doug Quirk got a yellow card with 17 minutes after arguing a call with an official that an Air Academy’s forward pushed Cheyenne Mountain’s goalie.
Alex Granados ended Air Academy’s drought by placing a penalty shot in the bottom-right corner past Cheyenne Academy goalkeeper Erich Frey with 6:09 remaining.
After that, Nehme said, “We just told our back line, and our team, that we’re not losing our heads. 'In the next six minutes we’re going to get one -- it’s ours.' We did just that.”
Nehme responded with a goal of his own, and Cheyenne Mountain ran out the clock to earn their first 4A state title since 1995.
“I didn’t even think about anything, I told myself to just go to goal,” Nehme said. “I went behind two defenders and put it on frame. I don’t even know how I did it, I’m just so thankful.”
On Oct. 9, Air Academy won an overtime thriller at Cheyenne Mountain 4-3. Herd and Nehme each scored a goal in that contest as well.
“I told the guys we only need to be better than them today, and that’s all that matter,” Martinez said. “They can say they dominated possession, or everybody outplayed us, but it doesn't matter. We got the better score today, and we have a great group of kids."