The No. 8 Lewis-Palmer Rangers faced off against No. 25 Mesa Ridge Grizzlies in the first round of the Class 4A boys soccer state tournament.
Though the Grizzlies took an early 1-0 lead, it was the Rangers who came up on top, erasing two deficits and scoring three unanswered goals in the second half to win 5-2.
Mesa Ridge wasn’t getting much into the final third early on, but a header from junior JJ Dickerson in the 15th-minute gave the Grizzlies their first lead of the game.
“Just working on set pieces and keeping it to the outside (were our goals),” said Grizzlies head coach Mario Sigala. “(We were) trying to penetrate them. They’re a tough defense so they came out the better team today.”
Mesa Ridge almost doubled their lead in the 27th minute when Rangers goalie Aidan McGonagle mistimed his punch on a cross. However, Lewis-Palmer was able to clear and ended up scoring on the counterattack via junior Charles Holland. Though Lewis-Palmer continue to threaten, the score was tied 1-1 at the half.
“They’re a very good team, Mesa Ridge is,” said Rangers head coach Brian Barkey. “They were very good, and they challenged us to do the things that we’ve been trying to do well over the season. What I spoke to the team at halftime about is ‘Can we just keep things simple?’ ‘Can we do the things that we’ve been doing all along successfully like defending well?’ because I feel like we were defensively a little bit disorganized in the first half. We missed a few early on and that tends to instill a little bit of panic in the tam and so we tried to just maintain calm.”
The game opened up a bit in the second half with both teams looking to take the lead. Mesa Ridge was able to take advantage in the 43rd minute, with senior Caleb DesBouillons running behind the defense and volleying home a high ball from senior Dorrien Hill.
As Lewis-Palmer pushed for an equalizer, Mesa Ridge’s goalkeeper, senior Kyle Costra, stood tall. Costra had 13 saves at the final whistle.
“Their goalkeeper is superb,” said Barkey. “The center of their team is superb. (DesBouillons) constantly moving and running posed challenges for us because we were a little bit disorganized.”
Lewis-Palmer was able to find an equalizer in the 59th minute, with Holland scoring his second of the game. Less than a minute later, junior Ethan Mann would give the Grizzlies the lead.
Senior Tyler Davis added another goal in the 67th minute and senior Nate Jeffson gave the Grizzlies some insurance with a goal of his own in the 73rd minute.
“I’m really proud of the team for being resilient,” said Barkey. “You look at the body language when teams go down, their body language changes and there were probably a few moments of that but then they got it together so (I’m) really proud of that aspect.”
“We broke down defensively,” said Sigala. “We weren’t tracking the runners and so it was one of those things where defensively when you do that, they’re going to penetrate you and that’s what happened.”