Lakewood boys soccer stays in 5A Jeffco title hunt with last-second goal

Lakewood senior Daniel Juarez's first goal of the season came in a timely manner for the Tigers on Monday at Lakewood Memorial Field. Juarez tapped in the game-winning goal with 6 seconds left in regulation-time to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory over Columbine. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

LAKEWOOD — Lakewood senior Daniel Juarez hit the equivalent of a half-court shot at the buzzer on the soccer pitch Monday.

Starting with a long throw-in by Lakewood senior Mario Zendejas Caraveo, Juarez was able to tip in the game-winning goal with 6 seconds remaining in regulation-time to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory over Columbine at Lakewood Memorial Field.

Columbine sophomore Carter O'Keefe (13) and Lakewood senior Jimmy Almaraz (3) battle for the ball Monday at Lakewood Memorial Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I saw Mario grabbing the ball. I just tucked in and jumped in,” Juarez said. “I just tipped it in and scored it. I kept looking at the clock. I was just trying to pressure it and take any shot we could get.”

Lakewood coach Tom Noor admitted he was already pondering overtime before Juarez scored his first goal of the season to edge Columbine (0-3-1, 0-3-1 in Class 5A Jeffco League).

“I was thinking about overtime, but I didn’t want to go to overtime,” Noor said. “Winning in overtime is OK, but losing in overtime is the worst feeling. It’s like getting gut punched.”

The last-second victory was huge for Lakewood (4-1, 4-1) when it comes to the race for the conference title and earning one of the two automatic playoff berths to the 16-team 5A state tournament field. Arvada West — No. 2 in the latest 5A boys soccer rankings — hold the top spot with a 4-0 league record.

The Tigers and Wildcats are scheduled for a big showdown at 5 pm Thursday at the North Area Athletic Complex. That game could very well determine the 5A Jeffco League champion.

“I think we could do it,” Juarez said about Lakewood’s chances against A-West. “I believe in this team, along as we play like we did against Valor.”

Columbine senior Carl Dixon (8) attempts to hold off Lakewood junior Tyler Archer on getting off a shot during the first half Monday. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Lakewood took a 1-0 victory over Valor before spring break to give the Tigers a legitimate shot at winning the conference title.

“We are going to put a lot into that game on Thursday,” Noor said of the match-up against A-West. “If we can get a result against Valor — who I think is the best team in the conference — we can get a result against anybody.”

Columbine didn’t get the result it wanted while searching for its first victory of the year. The Rebels did tie things up in the second half against Lakewood with a goal from sophomore Ty Santangelo in the 52nd minute. Santangelo’s shot from long rang found the back of the net to knot things up a 1-1.

Zendejas Caraveo had given the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute when he beat Columbine goalie Chase Heck in the first half.

“We won this game, but it’s not how we normally play,” Juarez said. “We need to get better and we all know that. We just have to work.”

Lakewood will be playing four games in six days at the end of the regular season wraps up Saturday, April 17.

“I’m happy and we are doing well,” Noor said of how his team is handling the shortened season. “We are doing OK with it. We aren’t injured too bad. Danny scoring that goal is big because maybe he’ll start scoring.”

Lakewood freshman Dayton Evans (24) and senior Jimmy Almaraz (3) bookend Columbine sophomore Carter O'Keefe during the Class 5A Jeffco League game Monday at Lakewood Memorial Field. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)