COMMERCE CITY — Pick your Cinderella storyline, and Ridgway’s boys soccer team probably fit the criteria this postseason.
A small school of 99 students, and one that had not won a state championship in any sport since 1995. A No. 10 seed that struggled late in the season and was overlooked coming into the state tournament.
None of that mattered Saturday afternoon, as the Demons completed their historic run through the Class 2A state bracket with a 2-1 victory over Dawson School at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The victory gave Ridgway its first state title in the sport and first overall since winning a boys basketball crown 24 years ago.
“We come from a school with 99 kids. The team we just played has an enrollment of like 250,” Demons coach Jon Kornbluh said. “That’s the story almost every time we step on the field. It’s really just a story about these boys, and me, starting years and years and years ago.
“We’ve been punching above our weight all our lives.”
Robert Beserra scored both of Ridgway’s goals, the game-winner coming with only 37 seconds remaining in regulation. Beserra, who finished his senior season with 41 goals, went up and headed the ball over a defender and a charging goalkeeper into the back of the net. It slowly rolled into the back of the net, setting off a wild celebration.
“My keeper (Kaden Forrest) punted it like three-quarters of the way down the field,” Beserra said. “I was like ‘this is my chance.’ I went up for it and I capitalized. It was a proud moment.”
Kornbluh said it was nothing new from his senior midfielder, but added that it doesn’t happen without the work of the entire squad. In his words, the Demons are a “beautiful possessing team with a phenom up top.”
“It was a courageous play. He’s looking to get hammered by that goalie,” Kornbluh added. “Robert is the total package. He’s got courage, intensity, skill and a huge heart. He’s our workhorse.”
Ridgway (12-3-3) dropped three of its final five regular season games, but opened the 2A playoffs with a 5-1 victory over No. 7 Lotus School For Excellence. From there the team upset defending state champion Crested Butte 3-1, and then upended No. 3 Fountain Valley 5-1 in the semifinals.
“It’s insane,” Beserra said. “I saw this is like the lowest seed that’s made it to the finals since like 2007 or something, so that’s really special.”
Dawson School (12-4-2) defeated Telluride and Denver Christian to reach its first 2A championship game. The Mustangs fell behind in the 12th minute after Beserra scored his first goal, but Jesse Isenhart knotted it up at 1-1 not quite 11 minutes later, sending a direct kick from just outside the top of box past Forrest.
The senior had two more chances on set pieces in the first half, but one went a little high and the second was deflected away by Forrest.
He had another direct kick hit the crossbar in the second half, and Forrest finished with four saves on the afternoon.
“Kaden came up really big,” Beserra said. “Our defense has been playing good all playoffs. They’re playing good when we needed it.”
Ridgway managed only one other shot on goal, and Christian Lindler had a chance go just wide right in the closing minutes. With the game looking as though it would go to overtime, Beserra made the most of his biggest chance of the season.
“Everyone talks about how big the moment is – at the end, I just kept talking about ‘no, this is about your first touch. This is about defensive intensity. This is about playing clinical soccer,’” Kornbluh said. “Take the moment out of it. It helped to watch the game before us and be in the space and place.
“It wasn’t too big for us. They really seized the moment.”