`Flower Kick’ kicks AHS into soccer semifinals
In its last 13 games, the Denver Christian boys soccer team only allowed four goals.
That streak – which included a 4-0 victory over Aspen in mid-September – helped earn the team a No. 2 seed in the Class 3A Boys Soccer State Playoffs, as well as the esteem of opponents, who testified that the team’s defense was tops in the state.
But yesterday afternoon, in what Aspen coach Grant “Junior” Sutherland described as his team’s best performance of the season, No. 7 seed Aspen rang up four goals – three by Skier David Blumentritt – against Denver Christian and squeaked to a 4-3 victory.
“Unbelievable,” the choked-up Sutherland said as he surveyed his players celebrating wildly after the 80-minute battle. “The guys were up for it today.
“Just a fantastic performance.”
With the win, Aspen returns to the semifinals of the state playoffs for the fourth straight year. The Skiers will take on St. Mary’s of Colorado Springs Friday night at 7 p.m. at Englewood Stadium, where all of the final four matches will be played.
The Crusaders struck early in the match, taking a 1-0 lead off an Ian Grant direct kick from outside the goalie box that he bent around a wall of Aspen players and into the upper right corner of the net.
But less than a minute later, Aspen tied the game on a corner kick play. Midfielder Jeff Flack sent in an arching cross toward the back of the penalty box, and a streaking Blumentritt timed his leap perfectly, heading the ball into the back of the net for one of Aspen’s prettier (and more clutch) scores of the season.
Blumentritt, a German exchange student and Aspen junior whose name means “Flower Kick” in English, notched his second goal of the game in the 32nd minute. After drawing a tripping penalty, Blumentritt lined up a direct kick from outside the box. He unleashed a scorcher around a wall of five Crusader players and off the hand of goalie David Fritzler to put Aspen up 2-1.
Just before the half, Denver Christian tied the match at 2-2 when Jake Elrod one-timed a crossing pass past Sewell.
In the 46th minute, Aspen striker Phil Salazar put Aspen ahead for the duration. Salazar, who scored twice in Aspen’s first-round tournament win over Evangelical Christian, dribbled along the right wing neck-and-neck with a Crusader defender and then, from the most unlikely of angles, uncorked a worm-burner from 18 yards out that beat goalie Fritzler to the near side.
Blumentritt added the Skiers’ final goal (and his third, for a hat trick) in the 67th minute on a long-range blast from outside 25 yards. Fritzler appeared to have his sights on the shot but stood aside at the last minute as if he thought the ball was headed wide of the net.
Up 4-2, the Aspen defense – led by senior co-captain Duncan Delano, Nick Farrell and Matt Stege – tightened up its already solid play and tried to kill off the remaining minutes on the clock. Denver Christian scrambled for opportunities and capitalized with six minutes left after a cross rattled around in the Aspen penalty box before a Crusader forward managed to get a scoring boot on the ball and whittle the deficit down for a final score of 4-3.
“We wanted it so much,” Blumentritt said after the game. “We always seem to let down at the beginning and end of each half – I’m not sure why – but we battled the whole game today.
“Having lost to [Denver Christian] 4-0 in September makes this just unbelievable.”
Sutherland couldn’t say enough about his team’s defensive play yesterday, an aspect of the Skiers’ game that has disappointed the coach in the past.
“Nick Farrell – what can I say? The guy played out of his skin, and the same with Duncan [Delano],” Sutherland said. “I’m really proud of them.
“Now maybe teams will wake up to us, give us some respect.”
Denver Christian coach Ray Van Heukelem bestowed plenty of respect on Aspen.
“They came out with a lot of aggression and really wanted it,” he said, “and I think that set my kids back on their heels a little bit. Aspen played with a lot of desire.”
Beaming about the team’s play, Blumentritt, the son of a soccer coach in Berlin, said: “This is definitely the best 80 minutes we’ve played all year. Now maybe we’re good enough for the first division in Berlin.” But first, Aspen will face St. Mary’s, the No. 3 seed that beat Kent Denver in their quarterfinal match 2-0 Tuesday.
“I think it’ll be an evenly matched game,” predicted Van Heukelem, who has seen both squads play this season. St. Mary’s is a “solid team and if Aspen plays the way they did today, it should be a very good game.”
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