COMMERCE CITY — A year ago it took more than 80 minutes for Air Academy to score its championship goal.
This time, the Kadets couldn't wait to take the lead. Luke Louthan found the net in the fifth minute to put Air Academy ahead. The Kadets hung on for a 2-0 win over Denver North to defend its Class 4A boys soccer state championship.
"Everybody was gunning for us for being the defending state champions," Kadets coach Espen Hosoien said. "To be able to do that again with a lot of younger players and some that were here last year is unbelievably special."
This marks the fifth state title for the Kadets (18-1-1 overall) who are now tied for third-most all-time in state history. It's also the third state championship win for Air Academy since 2014 which, a feat already accomplished by Broomfield and Kent Denver.
Louthan's goal didn't change the way the Kadets approached the game. Hosoien continued to urge his players to attack the Vikings' back line and in doing so, Thad Dewing had a few chances to to add to the lead.
Denver North keeper Byran Torres played each of Dewing's shots perfectly, sending the ball away from the net and keeping the Vikings (16-2-2) within striking distance at halftime.
"I'll give him a lot of credit," Dewing said. "He played great and he came up with a lot of big saves."
With the way Dewing was attacking in the first half, however, it was only a matter of time before he got one by Torres. A corner kick from Kameron Hooker was the opportunity Dewing needed.
He buried in the header to increase the lead and make clinching the title a family affair. Louthan and Dewing each had older siblings on the 2014 championship team.
"It felt great," Dewing said. "It was a great goal by Luke and the second obviously gave us a little bit of confidence."
No one had more confidence than keeper Thomas Beatty. The keeper for last year's championship team, Beatty has now accumulated more than 160 minutes of playing time in a state championship atmosphere without giving up a single goal.
"I can't say that I haven't made great saves, but a lot of those saves came because my defenders were cutting down angles just enough," Beatty said. "You can't put the shutout on just me."
The back line had suffered a setback in the middle of the year when defender Brayden Jonswold went down with a knee injury. He missed the remainder of the season, but the supporting cast for the Kadets was able to step up and not let the setback curb a championship run.
"We build a program down there and everybody buys into it," Hosoien said. "It's next man up when something like that happens and for me that's so special."
After Louthan scored the first goal, Hosoien said he thought the Kadets could have and maybe should have scored one or two more.
But the importance of that first one can't be understated in that it helped Air Academy settle into a groove and bond together to hold on to that edge.
"It's just came early," Louthan said. "Then we had to play as a team to keep that lead."
Their reward for playing as a team was back-to-back championships for the first time in school history.