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Area No. 1 Palmer Ridge tops No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain in boys' soccer 3-2 in OT
One slippery ball was all that separated Pikes Peak No. 1 Palmer Ridge and second-ranked Cheyenne Mountain on Thursday night.
Senior tri-captain Owen Braley saw his free kick from the 30-yard line sail into and through the arms of crouching Cheyenne Mountain junior goalie Erich Frey and roll into the net with 38.3 seconds remaining in overtime and give the Bears a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Indians. The goal ended a back-and-forth battle between two of the area’s top boys’ soccer teams that was chock full of excitement.
The pace was fast, the play physical and atmosphere intense as the Bears (6-1-1) and Indians (3-2) squared off in their first 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference contest of the season. The victory marked the first win by Palmer Ridge over Cheyenne Mountain in the three years the schools have been playing, a feat not lost on Bears coach Nick Odil.
“To get an overtime victory and beat this team for the first time, I think our guys are as high as they can be right now,” Odil said. “To get a win in our first league game is awesome and sets us up well. It’s pretty awesome.”
Palmer Ridge had a great scoring chance as time expired in regulation when senior midfielder Landon Spells connected on a square shot, but Frey made a leaping, one-handed save on a ball that seemed destined for the back of the net. The game appeared to be headed to a second overtime before Braley’s free kick found an opening.
“After our loss to them last year, we wanted to come in here and get a revenge win,” said Braley, whose squad was ousted by the Indians in overtime in the second round of the 2011 state tournament. “It was a little luck in the end with it going through his legs, but our team played well. We’re having a great season so far, and hopefully we can keep it up.”
The Bears took a 1-0 lead on a goal by senior attacker Grant Ellis off a pass from Braley 11:22 into the game, but Cheyenne Mountain struck back quickly. Senior Tyler Burns knotted the score at 1-1 on a free kick from 20 yards out less than 4 minutes later.
The Indians grabbed a 2-1 lead with 16:25 remaining in the first half on a penalty kick by junior Blake McNelis, but the Bears tied it up with 5:09 remaining on a goal by senior Luke Sinkola off a pass from Andrew Bell.
The second half was a defensive stalemate full of missed opportunities and close calls. Corner kicks, free kicks, crossing passes — nothing could separate the two elite squads.
It was a game both teams could be proud of in the end.
“I love it, because this is a learning experience,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said. “We kind of lost our flow and composure toward the end. Every game like this is a battle we need to learn from.
“Our philosophy this year is we’d like to be undefeated, but we don’t have to be to win state.”