Lacking respect: When it comes to playoffs, it’s a tough road for local Class 5A soccer teams
Playing Class 5A soccer hasn’t been easy for the three biggest District 51 high schools.
Case in point: Grand Junction tied for second place in the Southwestern League last year with an 11-3-1 record, yet received the last seed in the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Tigers lost 5-2 to top-seeded Cherry Creek in the first round. It marked the seventh consecutive season one of the three valley 5A schools lost in the first round.
“If we would’ve received a fair ranking compared to the metro teams with a similar record, that would give us a chance to at least fight our way through to the second or third rounds,” Grand Junction coach Stephen Latta said.
Grand Junction was the last of the three to win a first-round game, defeating Green Mountain 3-1 in 2002. That was a home game for the Tigers.
The previous year, Fruita Monument defeated Coronado 3-2 in the first round at home, but the Wildcats haven’t won a state playoff game since then.
Central has yet to qualify for the state playoffs since moving up to 5A.
“We need to play more of those 5A schools, but with the budget cuts we can’t do it,” Central coach Doug Beach said. “It’s not going to get better if we don’t play better teams.”
The Front Range teams are better because of a greater dedication to the sport, the coaches said.
“If you look at the way the Front Range teams are put together, they are more sports specific,” Latta said. “The Front Range teams have the numbers and more experienced coaches. There is a cohesiveness.”
Latta and Beach are in their second year at their respective schools, and Dan McKee is back for his first season at Fruita Monument since resigning for personal reasons in 2008. He was a coach in the program for nine years at the time of his resignation.
“I feel the first and foremost important thing is to get some consistency,” Latta said. “It seems the coaches change from year to year and the programs are often restructured.”
There has never been more than one of the three schools qualify for the state tournament, even when the field bumped up to 32 teams.
There have always been two qualifiers from the league, but Durango would usually snag the other spot. One year, the Demons made the state semifinals.
This year, though, two of the three local schools will qualify for state because Durango dropped down to Class 4A.
“I think we’re not known,” Fruita coach Dan McKee said. “We play only five other 5A schools besides Junction and Central and we lost Durango to 4A. That’s two less 5A games. We’re going to a tournament in (Colorado) Springs, but we may see one other 5A team there.”
McKee was an assistant for Ray Houck from 2000 to 2005 and took over the program from 2006 to 2008.
“If one of us three don’t win the league, we’ll probably be the 31st and 32nd seeds,” McKee said. “I don’t see us getting any respect.”