COMMERCE CITY – No matter what the outcome was of Saturday night’s Class 4A state championship game, Skyview’s boys soccer team had already made history.
The 2019 Wolverines were the first program in school history, in any sport, just to make a state championship game. But Skyview wasn’t content to simply let that be their story.
Instead, the Wolverines started and finished strong in the championship game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Skyview struck first and then held on for a hard-fought 2-1 victory over two-time defending champion Air Academy to win the school’s first title.
“It’s huge for our community. We’re just a little tiny school district up in Thornton,” Skyview coach Justin Thomas said. “It’s so big for community and our kids to know that no matter what size school you come from or what model district you’re in, you can do it. You can go out there and win a state championship against a huge high school like Air Academy.”
Luis Reyes and Jared Ramos scored first-half goals for the Wolverines (18-0-2). The Kadets got within one goal in the 51s minute and kept the pressure on late, but even after Skyview went down a man with 38 seconds remaining, it managed to find a way.
The team was also able to put a disappointing finish behind it from 2018, when an unbeaten season came to an end in a shootout in the state quarterfinals.
“We’ve been working for this since last November,” Ramos said. “This is our first state championship. The excitement I’m feeling right now, I don’t know, I can’t even explain it. We wanted this, we wanted everybody to know who we were.”
Skyview was coming off a one-win season when Thomas took over the program in 2012. The team won only three games in his first season, but came back in 2013 to win 11 games and a league title.
Thomas said despite the trials and tribulations of that first year, the process was a testament to the character of the players he has coached over the years.
There was a little uncertainty as to how this year’s team would bounce back from last year’s finish, but a strong senior class put those worries to rest early.
“We were a little worried about the senior class that we lost last year. A lot of guys went on to go play at the collegiate level,” Thomas said. “But this senior class, they stepped up so much. They’ve been such great role models and leaders for the younger kids on the team.”
Air Academy (15-5) has won five state titles overall and was making its fifth championship-game appearance in seven seasons Saturday. The Kadets featured the reigning Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year for Colorado in Thaddaeus Dewing, who scored the Kadets’ goal Saturday night.
Thomas said they spent hours planning how to slow down Dewing, adding that it was crucial to strike first. That’s exactly what happened, as Reyes scored in the 38th minute with a ball that somehow squeezed between Air Academy keeper Travis Tygart Jr. and the right post.
Three minutes later it was Ramos’ turn off an assist from Gustavo Flores.
“When we talked about our gameplan coming into tonight, it was all about strike early,” Thomas said. “We knew we were going to have to get on the scoreboard before them because they are a powerhouse of 4A soccer.”
Dewing cut the lead to one a little more than 10 minutes into the second half, just getting the ball past Skyview keeper Brian Fierro.
“Thaddaeus is good. He can turn at any time, he’s a dangerous player,” Ramos said. “He made it tough for our defenders, and we tried our best to defend it. We just kept pushing until the end.”
Air Academy kept the pressure on from there. The team’s best chance came in the 72nd minute, when Dewing’s direct kick from just outside the top of the box was deflected by a wall of defenders.
A brief scuffle in the final minute resulted in yellow cards for both sides. But the Wolverines didn’t allow any scoring chances in the closing seconds, and as the final whistle blew, they piled onto each other on the near sideline.
It was sweet vindication for a program that felt as though no one was paying attention to its success throughout the year.
“They were overlooking us the whole season. No one talked about us,” Ramos said. “That put a chip on our shoulders to prove everybody wrong tonight.”