Lakewood boys soccer stakes claim to first Jeffco League title since 1995

LAKEWOOD — Lakewood’s boys soccer team made history in dramatic fashion Friday night at Trailblazer Stadium.

The unranked Tigers wrapped up their first boys soccer Jeffco League championship since 1995 with a 1-0 overtime victory against Bear Creek.

“It feels good, but it’s making me old,” Lakewood coach Tom Noor said after the nerve-wracking victory in the Tigers’ conference finale. “I’m glad we won with this crazy snow schedule. I’m glad Daniel got the goal after shanking the shot right before the goal.”

Bear Creek sophomore Andrew Montoya, left, and Lakewood senior Daniel Juarez (7) battle for a header. Juarez's overtime goal clinched the Class 5A Jeffco League title for the Tigers. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

Lakewood senior Daniel Juarez scored the game-winning goal with 35 seconds remaining the first overtime period. Juarez had kicked a volley over the net seconds before that gave Bear Creek a goal kick. The Tigers were able to quickly control the goal kick and give the senior striker another chance at glory.

“I saw Jimmy pass it to Ko, and then Ko passed to me,” Juarez said of the game-winning goal. “I just took the shot and then everything froze. I realized we won.”

Senior Jimmy Almaraz, who had a great scoring chance earlier in overtime but his shot sailed just wide left, controlled the goal kick. Almaraz passed the ball up to senior Ko Harmes, who took a pair of defenders before feeding a pass to Juarez.

“I was hoping that we didn’t make any mistakes in the back and give up something silly, especially in overtime,” Noor said. “We had to step up and take care of it. We knew a tie wouldn’t do it. We kept pressing and pressing.”

Lakewood (6-1-2, 6-1-1 in Class 5A Jeffco) hasn’t been ranked all season in the 5A boys soccer poll that is voted on by coaches. However, the Tigers hoisted the 5A Jeffco League plaque and secured a spot in the 16-team 5A state tournament that is slated to begin with first-round games Wednesday or Thursday next week.

Lakewood junior Noah Pouliot (11) leaps over the leg of Bear Creek sophomore Logan Petersen during the first half Friday night at Trailblazer Stadium. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The Tigers couldn’t settle for a tie either against Bear Creek. Valor Christian (7-1-1, 6-1-1) would have won the conference title if Lakewood lost or tied against the Bears (4-6, 4-4). A 1-0 victory over Valor on March 25 gave the important tie-breaker over the Eagles to give the Tigers the league title.

If Lakewood would have tied or lost Friday night, the Tigers might have fallen all the way down to third in the league standings behind Valor and Arvada West (6-1-2, 4-1-2) and likely out the postseason.

“That’s awesome,” Noor said of the Tigers winning it’s first boys soccer conference crown in 26 years. “It's great and hopefully we can build some momentum off this. We aren’t done.”

Lakewood and Valor will receive automatic bids into the state field finishing in the top-2 in 5A Jeffco. There are only four at-large bids that will be awarded by a committee using a seeding formula that includes the coaches’ poll, MaxPreps rankings and RPI.

Lakewood won’t have to worry about any mathematical formulas with its conference title being the Tigers’ ticket to the postseason.

“It wasn’t just my goal,” Juarez said of the biggest goal in more than two decades for the Tigers’ boys soccer program. “Everyone has been working throughout the season. Everyone played a part. It means a lot, especially for the seniors. Doing something before we leave.”

Bear Creek junior Asante Maez, left, and Lakewood senior Jimmy Almaraz, right, battle during the Class 5A Jeffco League finale for both teams Friday at Trailblazer Stadium. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)