For Colorado Spring Christian’s soccer team, it was happy chaos. Players and coaches sprinted on the field after Kensley Smith delivered a golden goal, using a precise head shot to score on Sean Capps’ magnificent crossing pass.
For Atlas Prep, it was miserable chaos. Players crumpled in agony to the turf. A few stayed there, their eyes covered, for several minutes. The Gryphons had seized a two-goal lead in the opening seconds of the second half and looked ready for a long run in the state 3A tournament.
Instead, they were done and stunned. No. 16 seed Colorado Springs School defeated No. 1 seed Atlas Prep, 4-3, on the Gryphons’ home field.
“We’re a team that responds to adversity,” CSCS coach Jason Rollins said after he finished shouting and hugging. “We get down but I’ve never seen us not fight. I got seniors who don’t want the cruise to be over. There’s something about that.”
Atlas Prep’s bad fortune began before the game. CSCS had struggled this season, largely because of injuries. Kensley Smith scored 11 goals, but played only eight games after injuring his wrist. Those struggles resulted in a low seed.
But the Lions, when healthy, are as talented as any 3A team in the state. Instead of battling a so-so team in the second round of the playoffs, Atlas Prep faced a powerhouse.
Still, the Gryphons took control. In the final instant of the first half, Atlas Prep star Lamario Nisbeth apparently scored to give the Gryphons a 3-1 lead heading into the halftime. Two officials signaled the goal was good.
But a trailing official nullified the goal. He said the ball failed to cross the goal line before the buzzer sounded. Everyone agrees Nisbeth kicked the ball before the buzzer, but in soccer the ball must cross the line before time expires.
As you probably guessed, CSCS players and coaches said the call was correct, and Atlas Prep coach Teo Jackson said the call was wrong. He said the buzzer sounded after Nisbeth’s shot crossed the line.
“You got one called back, and you lose as a result,” Jackson said. “It happens. That’s sports.”
The call didn’t seem as if it would matter. Nisbeth struck again 20 seconds into the second half. The Gryphons led 3-1.
Senior Lookens Smith rescued his team. He scored from 25 yards with 30 minutes left, which essentially ended the Atlas Prep party. For the rest of the game, the Gryphons were in retreat mode.
With 12:32 left, the Gryphons were called for a hand ball, and Lookens Smiths sent a rocket into the net, tying the game. After the kick, Lookens took a slow, proud walk toward his teammates on the bench. They were whooping with joy. All momentum had swung to the Lions.
“When Lookens scored that free kick, we knew we would win this game,” Capps said.
Two minutes into overtime, Capps was dribbling near the corner. He could hear Lookens Smith trailing him, calling for the ball. Lookens already had scored two goals and assisted on another.
But Capps could see Kensley Smith a few dozen yards away. Kensley was sneaking into open spaces at the far post. He was waving at Capps.
Capps chose younger brother.
“The best cross I’ve ever seen,” Lookens said of what happened next. “An incredible cross.”
Yes, it was.
Kensley Smith had to wait for a long moment. He gathered himself and buried the shot.
“I got it done,” he said.
And then the chaos began.