Nine players remain from Air Academy’s dream soccer season in 2014. That team won a state title during a perfect 20-0 run.
But the 2017 squad, which has stormed through the first half of the season, has just two regular-season games remaining and is well on its way to a second perfect season in four years.
Working through the first half undefeated was step one.
Beating arguably their best competition until the postseason, and the No. 1 offense in the state, was step two.
Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said facing Sand Creek (11-1-1, 3-1-1), which the Kadets beat Tuesday 4-1, had good timing as they close out league play against Cheyenne Mountain and Vista Ridge and move on to the postseason.
Hosoien also said as the regular season comes to a close, the focus has shifted from remaining undefeated to doing what they need to do to contend for a state title.
“There was a stretch of a couple of weeks that I think they were starting to think more about the chance of going undefeated,” Hosoien said. “We have cousins and brothers from that team (from 2014) so they know and they want to do the same thing and I think that was definitely getting in their heads a little bit, during games, especially.
"But I think we ironed that our in practice and in the games last week. If you don’t lose a game this season, great. If you lose I would rather it be one of the next two than in the playoffs.”
Tuesday’s win was a well-rounded effort as the Kadets offense took a 3-0 lead in the first half thanks to goals by Thaddaeus Dewing, Aiden Schwenke and Andrew Hess. Luke Louthan tacked on Air Academy’s final goal midway through the second half.
“We had some really good combination plays and some good goals today, which was fun,” Hosoien said. “I know we are dangerous with our forwards on the field. We are always going to be with the players we have.”
The Kadets (13-0, 5-0) also boast a strong defense, which would have kept Sand Creek off the board entirely on Tuesday had it not been for an own goal in the last five minutes of the game, and a stellar keeper in Thomas Beatty.
Beatty showed off his athleticism with a pair of diving plays in the first 15 minutes against Sand Creek and later aided his corner defense when the Scorpions were granted a number of opportunities in the second half.
“We are clicking in both directions right now and it’s fun,” Hosoien said. “I would love to play every game this intense and against good opponents, and it’s good to work hard for this win, even though it was 4-1, going into the playoffs because that’s when we need to make sure we are playing our best.”