COMMERCE CITY • Palmer Ridge’s dream season was frozen Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The No. 1-seeded Bears (17-2-1) couldn’t get any offense going in the snowy conditions and fell 1-0 to No. 6 Battle Mountain (20-0) in penalty kicks (4-2).
After 110 minutes of scoreless play, the teams went to a shootout to decide the 4A boys’ soccer state title.
“I think the game was incredibly competitive on both sides; each team had chances and I’m really proud of all my guys,” Palmer Ridge coach Nick Odil said. “To play in the conditions we had to play in and to play with that kind of heart was amazing.”
After each team scored on its first two kicks, Palmer Ridge goalie John Kochanski seemed to give the Bears a huge advantage when he dived and used his foot to save the Huskies’ third attempt.
However, the momentum lasted only a few seconds before Jacob Kochanski’s shot was saved by Battle Mountain goalie Christian Espinoza.
With the score still 2-2, the Huskies got a goal from Joe LyBarger. Palmer Ridge’s Gustav Seifert then missed the net to the right, which left the door wide open for Battle Mountain.
“In the quarterfinals we also had the same thing with penalty kicks against Evergreen,” Espinoza said of the Huskies’ previous experience at shootouts. “I think we all had more confidence this time because last time I saved three of the PK shots.”
Heivan Garcia put the final nail into Palmer Ridge when he snuck the ball past John Kochanski and it trickled into the net to give Battle Mountain the state title.
The jubilation from the Huskies reverberated throughout their players, coaches and fans into a wild celebration. For Palmer Ridge, it was complete heartbreak.
“I’m so proud of this team and I wish we could go out and play this game again tomorrow,” said John Kochanski, who had several game-preserving saves in the overtime periods. “This is pretty hard to take; we had a great season and for it to end like that just hurts.”
Battle Mountain controlled play for most of the game, keeping the ball in its offensive zone and keeping Palmer Ridge on its toes defensively. It helped the Huskies that they had a man up for the final 20 minutes of overtime due to a red card on Palmer Ridge’s Alex Tillberry.
The snow aided the Huskies, who were able to keep the Bears from getting any long runs. The slippery conditions allowed Battle Mountain to slow the game down to a pace it was comfortable with.
“Our school represents a lot of different facets of our community and it’s very exciting to see how everyone in the community has pulled together through this journey over the past few weeks,” Battle Mountain coach David Cope said.