ARVADA — A six-minute span in the second half spoiled the season opener for Ralston Valley’s boys soccer team.
The Mustangs held a 3-1 lead thanks to a pair of second-half goals by junior Mason Miller. A lone first-half goal by sophomore Hayden Miller, Mason’s younger brother, Tuesday night at the North Area Athletic Complex had the Mustangs primed for a solid opening win.
Arapahoe, ranked No. 6 in the CHSAANow.com Class 5A boys soccer preseason poll, had other plans. The Warriors answered with three goals from the 66th to 72nd minute to erase the two-goal Ralston Valley lead. Arapahoe (2-0 record) held on for a 4-3 road victory.
“I’m not sure quite what to say, except it’s very, very difficult to sustain through 15 games of coming back,” Arapahoe coach Mark Hampshire said after a second straight come-from-behind win. “We had to do it last week against Rangeview. It shows a lot of resilience. This is a group that cares about each other very much.”
Arapahoe got goals from non-starters Adam Hangland and Mitchell Engerman four minutes apart to tie the game at 3-3. The eventual game-winning goal came off a corner kick by sophomore Chris Grauberger in the 72nd minute.
Ralston Valley junior Ethan Watne attempted to head Grauberger’s corner kick out of trouble, but the ball deflected past Ralston Valley goalie Jared Peterson for an own-goal.
“It’s tough to swallow right off the bat, but as Coach Scar (Jamie Scarcliff) said there are a lot of positives to take. There is a lot to learn from this,” Mason Miller said. “Arapahoe is a great team. Our legs got a little tired and they took advantage of it.”
The Warriors are coming off a state quarterfinal appearance last fall and defeated Rangeview 3-2 in overtime last week to open their season. Ralston Valley sits at No. 10 in the preseason polls.
Ralston Valley defeated Arapahoe 4-2 last year in an early non-league game. Mason Miller scored a pair of penalty kick goals to help the Mustangs on to victory.
“(Ralston Valley) whooped us last year. They are only going to get better,” said Hampshire, who added that he believes Mason Miller has one of the best shots from any junior in the state. “I think the Jeffco League is going to have to look out for them. I don’t know if I want to play them again in the playoffs.”
Hayden Miller put in the lone goal of the first half. In the 32nd minute the sophomore made a successful diving header. He was able to get enough on the pass from junior Sam Keller to direct the ball to hit the left post and cross the goal line.
Arapahoe tied the game early in the second half with a penalty kick from junior Cameron Gail before the Mustangs took a 3-1 lead with back-to-back goals from Mason Miller in the 49th and 56th minutes.
“It’s eye-opening for us on how we handle leads,” Ralston Valley coach Jamie Scarcliff said. “That two-goal lead is dangerous because the game can shift either way.”
Scarcliff added she was pleased with how her Mustangs played through most of the game, despite blowing the two-goal lead in the final 15 minutes.
“I think we got a little too comfortable and settled,” Scarcliff said. “We started just kicking the ball and that got us out of our rhythm.”
The Mustangs went on to go undefeated in 5A Jeffco League play to win their second conference title in three years.
“We want to hit our peak at the end of league and heading into playoffs,” Mason Miller said. “With these first five games we love the competition. We don’t fear any challenge. Nothing is too big for us. We are excited to play the best teams in the state.”
Ralston Valley continues with non-league play with another stiff challenge. The Mustangs head to Denver East High School on Friday, Sept. 1, to face the No. 3-ranked Angels.
Arapahoe heads back into action when it hosts the annual Warrior Invitational on Sept. 5, 6 and 9 at Littleton Public Schools Stadium.
“I don’t want to keep this up,” Arapahoe goalie of Spencer Cobb said of the Warriors having to rally from behind in their two wins so far.