A chance for revenge

Fruita gets a rematch with Denver East in 5A state tourney

Noah Nelson, left, and the Fruita Monument Wildcats will see a familiar foe across the field today in the first round of the Class 5A state soccer tournament: Denver East, which eliminated the Wildcats last year.

The Fruita Monument High School boys soccer team knows it can stay close.

Last season, the Wildcats went to Denver East and trailed 1-0 for about 50 minutes in its first-round match of the Class 5A state tournament before falling 4-0.

This year, Fruita Monument gets to try again. The No. 31-seed Wildcats are at No. 2 Denver East in a first-round game at 5 p.m. today.

The Wildcats have qualified for state the past three seasons, but they have not made it out of the first round.

But Fruita has at least one advantage: An excellent scouting report from Denver East’s game last week against George Washington.

“We found out they like to shoot from anywhere on the field,” Wildcats coach Dan McKee said. “They’re going to come at you. And they’re a very possessive team like us. So, we like our chances because they match up with our style of play.”

Denver East (13-2) is the Class 5A/4A Denver Soccer League champion and has won five consecutive games.

East has 11 shutouts this season and has allowed only eight goals. Senior goalkeeper Marques McDonald has allowed seven goals in 1,035 minutes.

Fruita (7-2-1) took second in the Southwestern League and is led by Wesley Padgett’s 14 goals.

Padgett, a junior, played basketball as a freshman. He played the sport like his older brother Alex, who graduated this past spring after a standout hoops career with the Wildcats. But Wesley chose to concentrate only on soccer after that freshman season.

“I just wanted to stick with soccer,” Padgett said. “It was kind of like my brother’s thing; he played it, and I kind of wanted to be like my brother. But I didn’t get to play a ton of basketball, so I wanted to focus on soccer, so maybe I could get a scholarship.”

Padgett said it will help having played at Denver East last year.

“We’ll be playing at the same exact place,” Padgett said, “and we know how the field is gonna be, who their players are going to be, and we already have a scouting report against them.”

Oh, yes. The scouting report. Fruita noticed that although East has an excellent defense and keeper, its weakness may be its outside backs.

“They’re a bit slower,” McKee said.

And so the Wildcats hope outside midfielders such as Kyle Beeden and Andrew Bryceland can dribble the ball to the end line and cross balls into an attacker such as Padgett.

“They definitely are beatable,” Padgett said.

And considering Fruita returns six starting defenders from last year’s squad, there seems to be the possibility of upsetting East.

“We’re real excited about our chances,” McKee said. “We know we can hang with them.”


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