AURORA • The bald head of Smoky Hill’s Walter Prince reflected 80 minutes that were uncharacteristic of the Pine Creek boys’ soccer team’s season.
Prince’s header into the net in the 69th minute ended the Eagles’ season in the 5A quarterfinals with the 1-0 loss, and handed them only their second shutout of the season.
“We aren’t used to not scoring,” said Pine Creek coach Ben Corley, whose team’s only other scoreless game came against Bear Creek on Sept. 15. “I thought we played with a lot of heart and character. I thought Smoky Hill came out with a plan to be physical. Very physical.”
And the Buffaloes were.
Five yellow cards were handed out as body after body hit the ground Saturday.
“I think we played good, technical soccer,” Corley said. “And they wanted to take that away. Give credit to them, they played the way they wanted to play.”
Pine Creek had its chances though.
In the third minute, a corner kick rolled in front of the net, but no Eagles player could push it in.
Then in the 33rd minute, a free kick from 18 yards out wafted inches to the right of a score.
“It was frustrating,” Corley said. “We just needed one to go in.”
But it was Smoky Hill that found the net. The Buffaloes’ Kevin Del Mazo tracked down the ball to the left of the net. Before it could roll out of bounds, Mazo snatched the ball, spun around two sliding defenders and crossed it.
“Then my head just found it,” said Prince, who speared it past Pine Creek goalie David Meyer. “I split two defenders out of nowhere and put it in.”
Corley and his team were stunned.
“It was a good goal, but it was kind of a chippy goal,” Corley said. “It was a perfect ball that hit their tallest player in the head. I wouldn’t say it was a real quality goal where they broke us down.”
Smoky Hill held on for the last 11 minutes and celebrated with its horde of crazy fans.
“It’s the best feeling ever. I did it for the seniors, I did it for the fans and the community,” Prince said. “I knew in the end we were going to pull through. I knew it was going to be that one goal to decide it.”
Smoky Hill (14-1-3) faces Cherry Creek in the semifinals Wednesday. Pine Creek (13-5) can only watch and cringe.