Less than a week after avoiding another first-round exit from the 5A state tournament, the Pine Creek boys’ soccer team played its way into the quarterfinal round.
Sophomore Nick Bannister scored twice, and the No. 12 Eagles led from start to finish in a 3-1 victory over No. 28 Gateway at District 20 Stadium Monday night.
A precision offense, coupled with a stingy defense, carried Pine Creek (13-4) past the upstart Olympians (8-4-5), who were coming off the high of upsetting fifth-seeded Arvada West in the first round.
“Gateway is a good team, but our guys played a much better style of soccer,” Pine Creek coach Ben Corley said. “Tonight, we scored some really nice goals and the team was looser and playing well together. When we play our style of soccer, we’re tough to beat.”
Bannister took an arching, cross-field pass from Zach Peterschmidt and deposited it in the back of the net behind Gateway goalie Alan Garcia 10:38 into the first half, and senior Ryan Jeffers made it 2-0 at the 18:49 mark after pounding home a series of ricochets resulting from a corner kick. The Eagles, who have won nine in a row, carried that lead into the locker room after goalie Dave Meyer got just enough of an Olympians’ shot with 2:57 on the clock to deflect it wide left of the net.
Gateway’s Garcia kept it a two-goal game 4:08 into the second half with a pair of diving saves, and Santiago Quintero cut the Pine Creek lead to 2-1 11:46 into the second half on a long shot off a pass from Giovanni Pinon. The Olympians appeared to tie the game just two minutes later on a long, booming shot off the foot of Jorge Ortega, but were called for offsides.
Bannister gave the Eagles a crucial insurance goal in the 57th minute off a pass from Casey Baker, and the defense took over from there.
“When you get those chances, you’ve just got to put them away,” Bannister said. “Our performance was fantastic, and I thought we showed Pine Creek pride and how we can play the game. I really believe that we can take the next team and the next team, be composed and play like we’re the best team in the state.”
For Pine Creek, which has been bounced from the state tournament in the first round in recent years, the 2012 tournament is different.
“We’ve had some misfortune in the last six years in the first round of the playoffs, and our guys have had a goal of playing the right kind of soccer where we could get to the playoffs and win a game,” Corley said. “The rest is icing on the cake if we can keep going. It’s an opportunity, and we’re going to have fun on the ride, come what may on Saturday.”
Gateway coach Olaf Siverson said his squad’s inability to take advantage of its opportunities was its downfall.
“It was a matter of a few bounces here and there, and it could have been a different game,” Siverson said. “I think you come off the high of the first win, and it’s hard to try and carry that through.”