Jaguars advance to soccer semifinals

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Rock Canyon came out on top 1-0 in the hard-fought battle that lasted the full 80 minutes from starting whistle to game-ending buzzer at the state Class 5A quarterfinal game with Heritage Nov. 2 at Shea Stadium.

“This was a battle and a heck of a game,” Jaguars coach Sean Henning said after the game. “Heritage is a very good soccer team. It was tough, but we just kept working and fortunately got the goal we needed to win the game.”

Adam Buseck, Heritage coach, said his team played well.

“The kids did everything I asked them to do,” he said. “Rock Canyon is a good team. When they got a sort of soft goal early, they made it stand up for the win.”

The win advances the Jaguars to the semifinals against Denver East. The Angels come into the game with a 10-5-3 record. They advanced this far with wins over Highlands Ranch, Rangeview and Liberty. Rock Canyon advances to the state semifinals with a 15-0-2 record. The Jaguars have already bested playoff opponents Doherty, Arapahoe and Heritage.

Both state semifinals will be played at Legacy Stadium, which is adjacent to Cherokee Trail High School at 25901 E. Arapahoe Road. The first game of the evening matches Boulder (15-3) against Pine Creek (15-1-2) at 4 p.m. at Legacy Stadium.

Soccer purists should have enjoyed the Nov. 2 Rock Canyon-Heritage quarterfinal battle. The game was played at a racehorse tempo. The play moved from one end of the field to the other as, when a team took possession of the ball, they sought to establish control of the flow of the game to mount a successful scoring attack.

“We came in working to maintain possession of the ball. That is our style of play. We made that work in the first half,” the Jaguar coach said after the game. “But Heritage stepped up the attack and the drive to challenge us in the second half. They pressed the attack frequently but our back line and goalkeeping kept the ball out of the net. The defense has been solid all year, and I believe this is our ninth or tenth shutout this season.”

Both teams created scoring opportunities. But, at both ends of the field, the defenders and goalie combined to keep shots out of the net. The only exception came about midway through the first half when Gabe Krzywdzinski drilled a line-drive shot at goal from about 35 yards out.

“The long shot is sort of my specialty,” Krzywdzinski said after the game. “Today, we were pushing up field when I had the ball come to me across my body. I settled it on the ground and, when I looked up, I saw there were no defenders in front of me and the goalie was off line so I took the shot. I didn't aim. I just shot a prayer at the goal.”

Krzywdzinski's shot was a line drive to the upper left corner of the goal and it sailed by the outreached hand of the leaping goalie and into the net. The junior midfielder said seeing the ball go into the net was the best feeling he has had in his life.

The Heritage coach said his team played well all game and they stepped up the attack in the second half.

“We did make some alterations and had more guys go forward to press the attack in the second half,” Buseck said. “We worked on pushing the ball wide and coming down the wings. Our kids did their best and that's all you can ask.”

He added that he will lose eight seniors to graduation. After the game, he met with them and hugged each of them.

“We have a strong, young group coming back and a program that is very strong,” Buseck said. “I look forward to being back here next season.”