Littleton boys soccer punches postseason ticket

Littleton sophomore Oliver Garnica (8) controls the ball next to Green Mountain junior Blake McKibbin (11) on Tuesday night at Lakewood Memorial Field. The Lions took a 3-2 victory to clinch a postseason bid. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

LAKEWOOD — It was a win or go home situation Tuesday night at Lakewood Memorial Field.

Littleton and Green Mountain were both outside the top-32 in the boys soccer RPI heading into the Class 4A Jeffco League finale at Lakewood Memorial Field. However, the Lions (41st RPI) and Rams (35th RPI) were both in prime position to grab the conference runner-up spot to take an automatic bid to the 32-team state tournament that begins next week.

Green Mountain senior Greyson Gines (7) scored a pair of goals for the Rams on Tuesday night against Littleton, but it wasn't enough. Green Mountain lost 3-2 to end the Rams' season. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“We had a lot of ups and downs to be honest. We were both playing for the playoffs,” Littleton senior Jorge Aguilar said. “We worked really hard. I think we deserved to win.”

The Lions (6-7-2, 4-2 in 4A Jeffco) clinched the playoff bid that was up for grabs with a dramatic 3-2 victory, scoring a pair of goals in the final seven minutes for the come-from-behind win.

“It was a tough game. Both teams in the first half didn’t play well,” Littleton coach Pedja Vajzovic admitted. “Both teams played better in the second half. I think we had more possession second half, but they (Rams) were looked dangerous in the counter-attack. We got a little lucky with the PK in the last minute.”

Senior Sebastian Garnica scored the game-winning goal with 25 seconds left in regulation. Garnica took a penalty kick that the Lions were awarded in the final minute.

Green Mountain sophomore goalie Travis Dove couldn’t make the save on the PK and the Rams weren’t able to get the equalizing goal in the closing seconds. Green Mountain ends its season with a 7-7-1, 2-3-1 record and in the middle of the conference standings.

Green Mountain senior Connor Haussler, left, works to get the ball away from Littleton junior Dallas Baer during the opening half Tuesday in the Class 4A Jeffco League finale. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Green Mountain senior Greyson Gines broke the scoreless tie late in the first half. Gines held position on the doorstep of the Lions’ goal before he found an opening to slide a shot past Littleton goalie Logan McLaughlin in the 38th minute.

Littleton tied things up 1-1 in the 51st minute. Aguilar took a long feed and beat a pair of Green Mountain defenders before putting a shot past Dove.

“I think that (first) goal gave us the confidence that we could win the game,” Aguilar said.

Green Mountain regained the lead in the 57th minute when a free kick by Gines deflected off a Littleton defender and into the net. Aguilar answered again with a corner kick goal. He used the strong west wind to aid in bending the ball into the net directly off the corner kick in the 73rd minute.

Things got chippy in the final minutes. Play was stopped for several minutes while officials sorted out an altercation between players. A red card was issued to both a Littleton and Green Mountain player.

The Rams played down a man in the final two minutes after sophomore Thomas Kramer was issued his second yellow card of the game to receive a soft red card.

Littleton could be a dangerous team heading into the playoff despite the sub .500 record. The Lions suffered five 1-goal losses and did defeat Standley Lake — only other 4A Jeffco team besides conference champion Golden (13-1-1, 6-0) likely to make the playoff field — last week.

“We aren’t scared of any team,” Aguilar said. “Even if we are the underdog, I think we can pull it off. We played a lot of good teams close.”

Green Mountain's (from left to right) Blake Schell, Kuba Betlinski and Benjamin Krajewski deflect a free kick during the first half Tuesday at Lakewood Memorial Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)