AURORA – In some riveting Class 4A action on Wednesday, both games were deciding by a decisive goal coming in the final minutes. When the dust settled, No. 2 Windsor and No. 5 Denver North emerged victorious.
Windsor and Denver North will play for the trophy in the Class 4A state title game at Noon on Saturday at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.
(2) Windsor 2, (3) Niwot 1
The Windsor boys soccer players have been on an historic postseason run for their program and weren’t ready to get off the ride on Wednesday night.
In the Class 4A state semifinals for the first time, the No. 2 Wizards won 2-1 over No. 3 Niwot to take it one step further and solidify their debut in the state championship game. After the game, Windsor head coach Phillip Weiser tossed out words like, “excited,” “ecstatic,” and “thrilled” into the Legacy Stadium air but added that the team was also relieved to have gotten past the Cougars.
Heading into Saturday’s title match at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs, the Wizards must also be relieved to know they have senior John Burnett, who has 19 goals in 12 games after scoring both of Windsor’s on Wednesday.
“It’s been a weird season,” Windsor coach Philip Weiser said. “I’ve been doing this for 19 years and it’s never looked anything like this. And that’s a special group of young men right there and all credit to them for their dedication and what they were willing to sacrifice on the field and on the bench. It’s just collectively a great group of young men.”
Burnett gave the Wizards (12-0) the early lead with a penalty-kick goal in the 13th minute. Niwot (11-2) senior Keegan Stobbe tied the game five minutes later with a goal of his own on a free kick.
With just over six minutes left in the second half, Burnett broke the tie with a goal in the 74th minute to send the Wizards on to the final.
“It was a heck of a game. That Niwot is a solid team,” Weiser said. “They really came out in that first half and took it to us. It knocked us off our game and we had to refocus at halftime and kind of come out and play the way we did. The boys, they really responded at halftime and came out and played a heck of a game of soccer.”
(5) Denver North 2, (8) Lewis-Palmer 1
Sophomore Cyrus Tracy was in attendance as an eighth grader in 2018 when the Denver North boys soccer team was last in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Tracy remembers the experience vividly and as he was preparing to enter with five minutes left in Wednesday night's semifinal against Lewis-Palmer at Legacy Stadium, this time wearing his own Vikings jersey, he received an interesting bit of encouragement from head coach Clay Porter. The coach asked his charge to consider how could would it be if he went from watching a Denver North semifinal as a young fan to scoring the game-winner as a player.
Turns out, it was pretty cool indeed when Tracy scored with two minutes left in the game to seal a 2-1 victory and send the Vikings back to the state championship game.
"It was an amazing experience," Tracy said. "He told me it would be really cool if I went and go a game-winner, and I did. We've never won a soccer state championship and the last Denver North state championship of any kind was like 45 years ago or something. So, we're trying to change that."
The Vikings trailed in Wednesday's game after Ethan Mann scored in the 36th minute to give No. 8 Lewis-Palmer (10-3) the first lead of the game. Denver North's Ethan Najar, however, scored to tie the game in the with 14 minutes, 30 seconds left in the second half. Then it took Tracy's timely goal to turn the tide and allow No. 5 Denver North (12-1) to advance.
"We were in the semi in 2018 also and we won that one too," said Porter, whose birthday was Wednesday. "It was a hot game like this one was. It was tough and I don't even know what to say right now. I can't believe that just happened and I'm proud of those players because it's all them."
The Vikings will take on No. 2 Windsor in the Class 4A championship game at Noon on Saturday at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.