Hotchkiss wins 3A soccer title
GOLDEN — It was only fitting on a night when the theme of change reigned supreme in the nation, there was a changing of the guard in Colorado high school boys soccer.
Hotchkiss High School shocked the Class 3A ranks Tuesday evening, capping an unbeaten season with a game to remember. Manuel Ramirez scored the game’s only goal in the 25th minute of the first half and the Bulldogs’ defense withstood a furious charge from Colorado Academy for the 1-0 victory in the 3A state championship game at the North Area Athletic Complex.
For the first time in the state’s history, a Western Slope boys soccer team walked away with the 3A crown.
“Western Slope soccer is legit,” senior Jacob Fuller said. “It’s for real.”
The Cinderella team that nobody wanted to believe in completed its impressive run with four shutouts in five postseason games. Along the way, eighth-seeded Hotchkiss (16-0-4) knocked off the tournament’s top seed, along with the third and fourth seeds, proving that a team that had never won a playoff game really did belong on the field with the state’s best.
“It’s for everybody on the Western Slope,” Bulldogs coach Elaine Wood said. “It’s for all the parents and all the little kids. I don’t know what to say.”
Ramirez broke a scoreless tie with 15 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the first half. After Colorado Academy (16-4) was whistled for a foul, Ramirez lined up his free kick from just more than 40 yards away, along the left sideline.
The senior midfielder said he was trying for the upper right corner, and on the shot, Mustangs goalkeeper Bobby Thalman came out to challenge. Thalman jumped in a crowd of players but appeared to get clipped and fell to the ground, with the ball bouncing over him into the empty net.
“It just kind of fell in,” Ramirez said. “I just got lucky, I guess.”
Colorado Academy kept the pressure on for the first 10 minutes of the second half. Senior goalkeeper Evan Hansen made a save and a shot by Alex Gunberg ricocheted off the left post a few minutes later.
After the game, the Bulldogs’ fans stormed the field and mobbed the players, who were still a bit in awe over what had just happened.
“This is going to make everything better,” Ramirez said. “This is like a dream come true.”