What coach Teo Jackson and the Atlas Prep boys’ soccer team accomplished this fall is no legend or myth, though it might seem that way.
The District 2 charter school rolled to a 14-0-1 regular season and a second consecutive Tri Peaks League championship in just its third season fielding a varsity team.
The Gryphons went 6-8 in 2016 before a 12-3-1 campaign a year ago that produced the program’s first playoff win as the No. 14 seed.
“This year we were trying to get a top 10 seed,” Jackson said. “We thought that would’ve been pretty good.”
The Gryphons were the No. 1 seed when the 3A bracket was released behind an unbeaten regular season, which featured multi-goal wins over a handful of playoff teams.
The only struggles came with Colorado Springs Christian School. The Lions and Gryphons played to 1-1 tie in the regular season, which led to a highly anticipated rematch in the second round of state.
Unfortunately for Jackson’s team, its only loss ended a promising season, as CSCS won a 4-3 overtime thriller.
“It all came crashing down in one game,” Jackson said.
“They’ve got some great players, and they’re very well-coached. To lose to them, it’s not as bitter and hard to swallow.”
Under Jackson, The Gazette Preps Boys’ Soccer Coach of the Year, the Gryphons seem to have found a way to do more with less time or resources than most opponents.
Few students at the Title 1 school have the resources required to play high-level club soccer.
“We have a lot of kids who haven’t necessarily played in formal athletic programs,” Jackson said.
“There’s definitely a whole host of challenges associated with that for sure.”
According to Jackson, 91 percent of the enrollment qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
Atlas also features a year-round calendar and school days that start at 7:50 a.m. and end around 5 p.m., according to the school’s website.
That’s done little to slow production on the pitch.
Junior Lamario Nisbeth scored a team-high 24 goals, while Demetrio Araiza (15) and Davis Mogire (14) also averaged just under a goal per game.
Luis Vega, a freshman midfielder, assisted on nine scores, leading the Gryphons, and tallied seven goals of his own, while the defense was anchored by Angelito Caballero, Abraham Villegas and Sebastian Sanchez.
Jackson credits the program’s quick rise to an abundance of experience for underclassmen in the school’s first couple of years, and others, including college and other high school coaches, are starting to notice.
“His team, in three years of existence, can play,” a fellow Tri Peaks League coach said of Jackson and the Gryphons in his end-of-year submission.