COLORADO SPRINGS — In the distance, the roar of a jet engine could be heard over the grounds of the United States Air Force Academy. The Durango boys soccer team briefly looked back in awe, appreciating the fighter jets screaming through the air.
Not long after, Demons keeper Caleb McGrath was setting up a soccer ball for its own flight. There was no jet engine involved as the ball only moved as strong as McGrath's leg could will it. But the flight was every bit as impressive as the fighter jets that had flown by just minutes earlier.
The resulting goal was golden and gave No. 21 Durango a 3-2 come-from-behind win over No. 12 The Classical Academy in the first round of the Class 4A boys soccer state tournament.
"It was the best kick of my life," McGrath said.
And it was a fitting end to a game in which the Demons (11-5 overall) had to battle back from a two-goal halftime deficit.
They had plenty of opportunities in the first half to be sure, but while their shots were slamming off the post or veering wide of the net, TCA (11-5) was converting and jumping out to an early lead.
In the 16th minute, Jackson Hoosier leapt at a perfectly placed corner kick and headed the ball to the right side of the Durango net, catching McGrath off-balance. Just three minutes later, Durango forward Sayer Frontella's free kick hit the post and as the Titans again pushed forward, they put another goal on the board, this one courtesy of Samuel Grotelueschen, who was standing in front of a wide-open net.
Something had to change if Durango was going to get back into the game.
"We made a couple of tactical changes and I don't think Classical ever adjusted to it in the second half," coach Aaron Champenoy said.
Among the changes was stacking his midfield with five players as the Titans had been winning that battle through the first 40 minutes of the game.
It paid off in the 51st minute as Ryan Bell found freshman Cedar Newman right in front of the net. Newman's header shot right by TCA keeper Jack Carpenter, finally putting a goal on the board and alleviating some of the pressure off the Demons.
"That was awesome," Newman said. "I was happy that could get some momentum for the team and get us going a little more. I came into the game pretty confident. We all thought we could win, we just had to put the effort out there."
Still trailing by a goal, the Demons continued to press offensively and try to create as many scoring chances as possible.
With just under 15 minutes left on the clock, Moritz Rosik let loose a hard shot that carried just above Carpenter's outstretched fingers and in a flash, the game was tied.
"Once he hit it, I thought it was in," Champenoy said. "That was an absolute banger of a goal."
At the end of regulation, a game that early on looked to be well in hand for TCA was headed to extra time.
"I don't think we got complacent, necessarily," TCA coach Blake Gavin said. "But we just panicked a little bit and played like now we're up two goals, we can't lose now. Instead of moving forward and playing to win, we panicked."
If there was panic, it seemingly carried over into the extra period. A TCA foul and yellow card set up free kick from about 65 yards away from the net. McGrath set the ball up and the plan was to get it on frame and hope the sun could play a factor as Carpenter was facing south.
That turned out to be the case.
"I was going for the back post," McGrath said. "We had more guys going there in case in of a deflection or rebound."
The shot was every good as it looked while traveling through the air. And just like the sound of the jets heard earlier in the game, Durango's 2019 playoff run is taking flight.