Bagpipes and brothers send Englewood packing
Just as it has done in 13 other victories this season, the Aspen High boys soccer team left Englewood Stadium on Friday night with the music of bagpipes sounding victory notes.
This newfound tradition sits just fine with Aspen coach Grant “Junior” Sutherland, a native of Scotland, who guided the team to a spot in the state championship game tomorrow night with a nail-biting 3-2 victory over third-seeded St. Mary’s from Colorado Springs.
“Hey, what more can I say about these guys?” Sutherland said after the victory.
“I’m just so proud of them today and this whole season,” an emotional Sutherland continued as the Aspen players celebrated and sang a victory tune. “These guys have a lot of heart, and they showed it tonight.”
Aspen has made it to the semifinals in each of the last four years, and the win propelled the Skiers to the championship game for the first time. They will face Faith Christian High School from Denver Tuesday night.
Friday’s semifinal game began as a defensive struggle, as both teams had trouble getting untracked in the 25-degree chill. As the players begin to warm up a bit, the goalies finally saw some action, as shots on goal became more frequent and well struck. None found the back of the net, though, and the first half ended scoreless.
Aspen came out for the second half more aggressively, and it paid off in the 42nd minute. Midfielder William Amaya sent a cross ball from the right corner that bounced around in the St. Mary penalty box until senior Carter Hansen put solid leather on it, sending it into the left corner past goalie Joseph Corsentino.
The Pirates evened the mark five minutes later when Jon Nagl lofted an arcing ball that glanced off the fingertips of a leaping Patrick Sewell and carried into the net. Denver Christian went up 2-1 in the 59th minute on an unassisted breakaway by Josh Norris that he powered past Sewell into the right corner.
Aspen refused to let down, however, as the offense continued to provide scoring opportunities. In the 70th minute, midfielder Jeff Flack took matters into his own hands, or feet to be more accurate, when he fielded a cross ball from David Blumentritt just past midfield. Flack dribbled down the right side and summoned a supreme burst of speed to beat two Pirate defenders wide, then uncorked a rocket over the goalie’s head to tie the game 2-2.
The pumped-up Skiers just missed a shot wide left at the end of regulation, and both teams prepared for the extra period. Faith Christian came out strong to start the overtime, putting the Aspen fans’ stomachs in their throats with two strong shots on goal that Sewell stonewalled. Aspen countered with several scoring opportunities, keeping the ball in the Pirates’ end for lengthy periods of the clock.
Finally, with seven minutes remaining in the 15-minute overtime, sophomore Reid Hansen (Carter’s younger brother) broke through the middle of the Faith Christian defense and reached a through ball from Duncan Delano. Hansen battled to 12 yards out and put the ball just to the right of an outstretched Corsentino, sealing the sudden-death victory.
“We really had the desire for this one,” said the euphoric younger Hansen. “This just feels unbelievable.”
Hansen described the game-winner in detail. “I somehow managed to keep control of it with all those guys around me, and I saw the goalie slide left and I just put it where I had to. It was a great feeling.”
Aspen has never played for the state title, and coach Sutherland is excited for the opportunity.
“It’s just a great feeling to be here with these kids. They’ve worked so hard this season, and nobody deserves it more than they do,” Sutherland said. “I really hope we get some support from the community for the final. It would be great to have a big crowd.”
The championship game begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow night at Englewood Stadium. Sutherland likes Aspen’s chances in the final against Faith Christian, the No. 4 seed that advanced to the finals with a 3-1 victory over Vail Mountain on Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” said Sutherland. “Obviously both teams are very solid if they’re in the finals, and I think Aspen has proven that we can play with anyone.”
And about those bagpipes? “It’s amazing. I think that these kids really believe that they’re half Scottish. They love listening to the pipes before games. It gives them a feeling that they’re going into battle. It’s definitely a motivator.”
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