LAKEWOOD — Littleton’s boys soccer coach Pedja Vajzovic got congratulation handshakes from a trio of Class 4A Jeffco League coaches Wednesday night at Lakewood Memorial Field.
“The right team won the league I think,” Evergreen coach Ross Fowler said after his Cougars were shutout by the Lions in both teams’ conference finale.
Fowler, D’Evelyn coach Paul Moline and Standley Lake coach Mike Day all congratulated Vajzovic after Littleton wrapped up the conference title with a 2-0 victory over Evergreen. It’s the first boys soccer conference title for the Lions since 1973.
“After many years, my gosh. It means a lot to us,” Vajzovic said of capturing that elusive league title for the first time in 44 years. “The Jeffco League is very tough. We got lucky in a couple of close games. We fought hard. I think this year was our year. I’m very happy for the guys.”
Littleton’s victory took any drama out of the league title race on the final night of conference play. If the Cougars (6-7, 4-3 in league) would have got the win, it would have brought Evergreen, D’Evelyn and Standley Lake all into the picture for the league title.
Instead, Littleton (13-1-1, 6-1 in league) won the conference title outright.
“There is our banner in our gymnasium that only has one year (1973) on it,” Littleton senior captain Zach Maguire said. “We worked really hard last year to develop a team. This year we continued to build off of that. We didn’t let down.”
Littleton went 2-5 in 4A Jeffco last season. Six of the seven games were decided by one goal with the Lions on the short end the majority of the time.
With the conference title in sight, the Lions got a bit of a break with an own-goal in the 3rd minute against Evergreen to take an early 1-0 lead. From there on out it turned into a defensive battle.
Evergreen’s best scoring chance came in the 70th minute. Junior Ryan Gutberlet made a strong run, but his shot that could have tied the game just hit the outside of the net. The Cougars didn’t threaten to score in the final minutes as the Lions recored their 10th shutout victory of the season.
“I didn’t know our defense was going to be that good this year,” Maguire said of the Lions that have allowed just five goals this season. “We don’t have to score a lot of goals. We can defend and shut teams out.”
Littleton senior Ethan Schwarz sealed the victory with a goal in the 75th minute. Junior Ruben Cervantes had a perfect centering pass to Schwarz when the Lions were just trying to run out the clock.
“We talked about playing it to the corner to waste time, but a ball came through and I didn’t go to the corner,” Schwarz said. “I just went toward the goal.”
The 32-team 4A state tournament bracket will be released on CHSAANow.com on Sunday. It’s likely that five Jeffco teams — Littleton, D’Evelyn, Standley Lake, Evergreen and Golden — will all make the field.
The Cougars looked to be in serious trouble midway through the season, but a 4-game winning streak before the loss to Littleton got Evergreen back in the postseason picture.
“No one panicked,” Fowler said of the Cougars’ 2-6 start and 0-2 league mark early. “We needed to establish our identity and how we wanted to play. After we did that I think we proved we can compete with anybody.”