COMMERCE CITY — Air Academy capped off one of the most dominant seasons in Colorado boys soccer history with the Class 4A state championship.
The Kadets completed a perfect 20-0 campaign with a 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Classical Academy (19-1) at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
In outscoring opponents by a lofty total of 102 to five goals this season, Air Academy relied heavily on standout forward Austin Dewing and all of his speed and fancy footwork on creative run after creative run. Dewing entered the game as the all-classification leading scorer in goals (34) and points (90) by a large margin. In the state finals, Dewing’s talent was certainly on display with a dazzling array of moves in the first half.
No. 1 seed Air Academy and No. 2 Classical Academy, 4A’s highest scoring teams, remained scoreless at halftime though. Dewing needed his fellow Kadets to step up.
“We were a little bit one-dimensional in the first half,” Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. “We weren’t working hard off the ball. We were a little standoffish when it came to supporting Austin.
“In the second half, I thought we got a little more support. That opened up some space for him, as well. We talked about not just playing short stuff in the back, but also flicking the ball up top, because Austin’s got speed and he’s got technique. He’s a great player, he’s dangerous, and he’s hard to defend. I wanted him to get the ball more in dangerous positions.”
After a first half that saw both teams have several good looks at goal, but neither able to convert, Air Academy sped up play even more in the second half and attempted to unleash their full arsenal of weapons. They weren’t able to do so until the 59th minute when Dewing put a few tricky moves on Classical Academy’s defense before getting hammered in the box. A foul was called on the Titans, setting up a personal kick.
“Usually I’m the PK taker on our team,” Dewing said, “but because I got fouled I was on an emotional high and so it wouldn’t have been smart for me to take it.”
Dewing’s cousin, senior James Sims, stepped in and stepped up finding the back of the net to give Air Academy a 1-0 lead.
14 minutes later, another hard foul in the box on Dewing set up another cousin, David Louthan, for a penalty kick. The senior nailed it, giving the Kadets a 2-0 lead and the 4A crown.
“Austin’s two cousins stepped up and finished the job for him so that was just a family thing,” Hosoien said. “Maybe it was rock, paper, scissors at dinner yesterday or something, but James is solid. I think Austin was fine not having to take those PK’s.”
“I totally trust my teammates quite a bit and they were rock solid,” Dewing added.
After a breezy 6-1 semifinals victory over D’Evelyn with three goals by Dewing in the first half alone on Wednesday, Air Academy didn’t expect a defensive battle with two penalty kick goals. But, a year after a 2-1 loss to Cheyenne Mountain in the championship game, the Kadets were more than happy to win any way they could.
“It was a little bit of an empty feeling last year, although I was real proud of my team,” Hosoien said.
“It was a little bit of relief I think after going through the whole season undefeated, ranked No. 1 nearly the entire time. It’s not an easy thing to do for any athlete or for a soccer team, but especially younger players. I’m proud of how we solved that and just relieved that a team that I think is the best 4A team this season found a way to win here.
"I thought TCA played well. They were well organized and we knew they were going to be dangerous on counters. My hat’s off to them. I thought they played a really good game. They made it hard for us to do the things we like to do.”
Players and coaches alike said the cohesiveness of this year’s Air Academy team helped them earn their first state championship since winning 4A in 2010 and third state championship overall in the sport. They also won 5A in 1990.
“A big difference was last year we had almost the same talent, but this year we had even greater camaraderie,” Dewing said. “We wanted to work hard for each other and we knew what each other could do.”
“We definitely had a chip on our shoulder,” Sims added. “Last year we came into the finals thinking we could win, because we had already beaten (Cheyenne Mountain) before. This year we definitely had a different mentality. We were more focused and more prepared for this game.
“Losing last year and then coming back this year and winning was such a privilege. Who could ask for a better ending to the season than that?”