John Crawford, a senior, plays goalkeeper for the Canon City High soccer team. He performed nobly during his team’s 4A opening-round playoff game against Air Academy. He was acrobatic and brave, never backing down from a barrage of shots. He collected more than a dozen saves.

Air Academy, the defending state champs, still rampaged to a 7-0 victory that could have been worse. The Kadets hit the post five times.

“They’re really good,” Crawford said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they go all the way again. They’re always moving, always talking and they always have really good vision with the ball. They can see the field like no other team I’ve ever played against.”

Crawford said he suffered through one other game in his career that was this challenging. As a sophomore, he faced down a talented Classical Academy team.

“But I think this team would beat them,” Crawford said, pointing at Air Academy’s players.

The victory was a statement by Air Academy, which has won 33 of 35 games. The Kadets were relentless in the first half and remained as hungry to score when the game was 5-0 as they had been when it was 0-0.

Canon City was the 32nd seed in the 4A tournament, but that ranking is deceptive. After starting 0-5, the Tigers rolled to seven wins in their final 10 games and never allowed more than four goals until Wednesday’s barrage. The Tigers often struggled on offense, but were sturdy on defense.

“I’m pleased with the way we played,” Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. “We’re going to play our level of play. I’m not going to coach any other way. I want us to play as hard as we can, regardless.”

Hosoien eventually emptied his bench, allowing seven junior varsity players to enjoy their first varsity action of the season.

Senior Andrew Hess was part of the goal parade. He said the Kadets' hunger is easy to explain.

The team, he said, wants to be as powerful as last season’s 20-0 state champs, even though the Kadets lost nine seniors.

“I think we’re just as good,” Hess said.

Crawford, courageous Canon City goalie, would not argue that last point.

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