ARVADA — Arvada West sophomore Gabe Schultz's game-winning shot road the north wind Thursday night at the North Area Athletic Complex.
With the wind at his back, Schultz sailed a shot over the head of Poudre senior goalie Jacob VanDress less than four minutes into overtime in opening round of the Class 5A boys soccer state tournament to give the Wildcats a 2-1 victory.
“I just touched it, beat a kid and just hit it,” Schultz said of the goal that sends the Wildcats into the round of 16. “There was no open space the whole game. I was surprised I had that much space. I just kind of roofed it. I was so excited.”
Next up for A-West is the winner of the No. 25 Castle View versus No. 8 Arapahoe winner that started an hour later then the first game of a 5A boys soccer double-header at NAAC.
The last playoff win for A-West came back in 2015 when the program advanced to the 5A state quarterfinals. The past two years the Wildcats suffered road losses in the opening round of the state tournament.
Through the first half it looked like the No. 9-seeded Wildcats would be in danger of making it a third straight year of an early playoff exit. No. 24 Poudre held 1-0 lead after the first half. A turnover by the Wildcats led to a scoring chance by freshman Rowan Slater for the Impalas. Slater was able to place a high shot over A-West goalie Latham Kleckner in the 8th minute.
“It was a bit of a slow start. They stuck to the game plan,” A-West coach Troy Gette said. “They played great in the second half. What we hit the post four times. I think it was just a matter of time until we got one in.”
Arvada West tied things up in the 62nd minute on a hard low shot to the far post by senior Evan Keasling.
It appeared A-West might have scored in the final minute before halftime on a long shot that hit the cross bar then went off the back of VanDress. However, it was ruled that the ball didn’t completely cross the goal line before VanDress was able to slap the ball away.
The Wildcats entered the postseason on a seven-game winning streak. A-West had outscored it previous seven opponents 21-2.
Poudre pulled off its first winning season since 2014 when the Impalas had their last playoff win. Poudre had just 12 wins over the past three years combined before its resurgent season this season that yielded eight victories.
The Impalas close out the regular season with a 0-3-1 record, but all three losses were to top-10 seeded teams — No. 1 Fairview, No. 2 Boulder and No. 7 Fort Collins — in the 5A state tournament.
“They were so under-rated,” Schultz said of Poudre. “They played the toughest schedule. They should have been a higher seed.”