DENVER — Denver East's three-headed dragon - the offensive trio of forwards Sam Carson, Max Gottesfeld and Eli Miller - flew around the field and helped light up the scoreboard for the Angels in a big playoff game.
Gottesfeld and Carson both scored goals in No. 1-seeded Denver East's 2-1 victory over No. 8 Fort Collins at All-City Stadium on Saturday night in the 2016 Class 5A boys soccer state tournament quarterfinals.
"Eli, Sam and Max are harder to defend; if you focus on Max, Sam is going to get something and if you focus on Max and Sam, Eli will get something," Angels head coach Kirk Bast said. "It's a huge benefit to have those guys compliment each other. They aren’t playing to pad stats, they’re playing for each other and to win."
The Angels and Bast continue an undefeated streak on the season at 18-0 and advanced to the semifinals with the victory. The Lambkins capped their season with a final 12-3-3 mark under coach Justin Stephens.
The Angels started the game out explosive on offense and aggressive on defense, maintaining the majority of first half possession.
Scrappy Fort Collins defense in front of the goal helped slow down Denver East's attacks, and prevented a near sixth-minute goal, but the Angels just kept charging right back when Gottesfeld buried the first goal of the game in the right corner of Fort Collins' net in the seventh minute for the senior's team-leading 20th goal of the year.
"Any time you get to this level of play, you’re going to get the best out of both teams," Bast said. "You can see part of its character, part of it is work ethic and part is executing under pressure and both teams did a great job of that tonight."
The Lambkins were connecting well on passes, but seemed to be outmatched in terms of aggressiveness in the beginning. Fort Collins junior midfielder Derrick Eberling was being aggressive and taking charge, but East controlled the pace of this game.
The Angels were not only passing the ball well to each other, but maintained excellent ball control and were very tough on both sides.
Carson's 34th minute goal, which would serve as the game-winner, put the Angels up 2-0 heading into halftime. It was Carson's 18th goal of the year.
The Angels were shooting in the first half. The Lambkins didn't even have a chance to shoot.
Senior midfielder Robert Vasquez had great ball control and was aggressive driving through defenders maintaining possession for the Angels. He nearly had a backwards head goal in the second half.
"Vasquez is a very quiet guy in the middle, but just really holds the game together," Bast said. "In a sense of leadership, I’m so blessed because we have so many great leaders on this team."
Fort Collins junior goalkeeper Alex Snavely proved to be clutch in last 25 minutes of the game with four great saves. But Fort Collins needed goals - not saves, at this point. There was a close one for Fort Collins in the 69th minute on a shot that hit the crossbar and ricocheted towards the field, but not passing the goal line.
But there was life for the Lambkins in the last nine minutes.
A handball call gave Fort Collins a penalty kick and senior forward Matthew Khouri sunk the shot to cut the Angels' 2-1 lead.
The last three minutes started getting a little chippy between the refs and players after a Fort Collins player received a red card, and the Angels ultimately held their opponents until the time ran out.
"We thought we should have put the game away a little earlier with all the chances we had, but unfortunately we scored the PK, but we were able to battle it out and finish it," Gottesfeld said.
Denver East's next game will be in the semifinals at Legacy Stadium on Nov. 9 against the winner of No. 4 Broomfield vs. No. 5 Fairview.
"To be honest, we don’t focus on being undefeated at all," Bast said. "We focus on what game we’re preparing for next."