DENVER — With less than four minutes left in the first overtime period, Roaring Fork coach Nicholas Forbes couldn't watch. His Rams had just been awarded a penalty kick and as he had all season, Ross Barlow strode to the top of the goal box.
If there were any nerves surrounding the situation, they were all rattling around in the head coach. The shooter was calm as could be. And it showed when he ripped his shot to the left side to give Roaring Fork a 2-1 win and a spot in the Class 3A boys soccer state championship game on Saturday. The Rams also beat the Spartans in last year's state tournament.
He may not have look scared of the moment, but when he looks at his celebrating teammates and reflecting on the situation, he admits that's a tough spot to be in.
"I'm pretty nervous," Barlow said. "But I've learned to control myself and take a deep breath."
It wasn't too long into the contest when before the Spartans (17-1-1 overall) made a play on the net. As the ball bounced around in front of the Roaring Fork net, Quinn Bosanko was in a perfect spot to put his head on it. The only problem is that Rams keeper Noah Wheeless was in a perfect spot to make the save.
Just four minutes later the Rams (15-2-1) found an open look of their own as Dylan Webster navigated his way to the center of the field with no Salida defender between him and the net. His shot jumped off his foot and over the net, leaving the Roaring Fork fans - and Webster himself - in disbelief.
After using the bulk of the first half to feel each other out, the two teams dialed up pressure on their respective offensive ends. Two corner kicks in a span of three minutes for Salida nearly led to the game's first goal, but again it was Wheeless punching the ball again to preserve the tie.
Another scrum in front of the Rams net again almost put the Spartans up before Wheeless was able to dive on it. With about 20 minutes remaining in regulation, it was beginning to look as though one goal on either side would get the job done.
That goal finally came in the 74th minute as the ball was played in front of the Roaring Fork net where Wheeless moved up to make a play on it.
But Brown was too quick. He corralled the ball and pushed it just off to the side to give himself a wide-open look at the net. After all the chances that hadn't converted, there was no way Brown was missing that one.
"We've been working on him owning the goal box, so kind of being more assertive in there," Forbes said. "I think the ball just kind of bounced a little off for him."
A one-goal lead in this game felt like it was going to be enough, but Barlow had other ideas. He scored the equalizer with one minute, 20 seconds left on the clock. The game went into overtime and it was the Rams consistently on the attack. A foul called in the box gave Roaring Fork a penalty kick with 3:32 left in the first 15 minute session.
Forbes may not have been able to look, but there was no mistaking the sound of a good goal when Barlow connected and kept the Rams' state title hopes alive.
(2) Kent Denver 4, (3) Atlas Prep 2
Pace Billings didn't wait long to show Atlas Prep just why Kent Denver is the defending 3A boys soccer champion. The senior was in the right spot to bury the rebound from Max Hewitt's shot to put the Sun Devils up early.
Max Hewitt added a goal 13 minutes later to push the Sun Devils' (19-0) lead to 2-0. Suddenly with their backs against the wall, the Gryphons (17-1-1) pressed offensively and Luis Vega connected on a rush to cut the Kent lead in half.
But Billings added another and Spencer Thomas added another to quickly make it a 4-1 game just over a half hour into play.
The Gryphons scored the first goal of the second half thanks to a penalty kick opportunity. Lamario Nisbeth put his kick in the right side of the net to make it a 4-2 game.
But it wouldn't be enough. No one else scored for the remainder of the game and Kent Denver is set to defend its 3A state championship when it faces Roaring Fork on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.