AURORA - Cheyenne Mountain coach Tomas Martinez said the best team on paper didn't win the 4A boys' soccer state title game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Just the more tested one.
Keeper Erich Frey was a highlight reel in front of the net with seven saves, Spencer Wegner and the Indians defense came up stingy late in the second half and Christian "Chicken" Nehme put third-seeded Cheyenne Mountain ahead for good with his goal in the 76th minute to beat top-seeded Air Academy 2-1 in the 4A title game Saturday morning.
"We probably weren't the better team on paper. They were," Martinez said, "and I'm OK with that. Coming in though, I thought the tough road we took to get us here would help. We didn't roll over our playoff schedule like they did. We just barely beat Evergreen 1-0 in the semis while they rolled over Ponderosa (4-0 Wednesday). We were tested a lot this year."
At center stage on a windbreaker kind of morning, the Kadets (18-2) had double the amount of scoring chances. But the Indians (17-3) knew how to finish late scoring the game's first goal with less than 3 minutes left in the first half before adding the game's final goal with less than four minutes remaining.
The latter gave Cheyenne Mountain its second soccer title in 2013 - to go along with the girls' championship in the spring - and its third boys' soccer title since 1995.
It started after Air Academy's Alex Granados seemed to give Air Academy all the momentum after he stung a penalty kick past Frey to tie the game at 1-1 with six minutes left in regulation. But moments later, Nehme, the Indians forward who is nicknamed "Chicken" by family and friends, twisted around a defender on a rare second-half possession for the Indians, and rifled the ball into the opposite side of the net with 3:59 remaining to all but clinch the title for the team in maroon.
"After Air Academy scored nobody was down. I knew we were going to go win in those last minutes," said Nehme, a junior. "I just had a chance, saw the net and hit it as hard as I could. I was blessed it went in."
Meanwhile, it was a tough-to-swallow reality for the Kadets, who dominated in possession, scoring chances and shots. But in the end, they never found an answer for Frey, a senior, who said he played the best game of his career Saturday.
"I stayed calm and just played it in 10-minute intervals," he said. "After I got past one, I focused on the next . Cheyenne Mountain and Air Academy don't like each other too much out here, so I knew I needed to come up big for us and frustrate them a bit out there."
In the 67th minute, Frey made a leaping save on an Austin Dewing shot from atop the box, and then tipped the ball just over the net after a header on the ensuing corner kick.
And later, he denied Johnny Sims before he was helped by defender Wegner, who stood in front of an empty net and stuffed a rebound shot by Gabriel Stuger in the 71st minute.
"We had some chances and just couldn't capitalize today. That's soccer sometimes," Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. "We had a great season, but this isn't how we wanted it to end. It's disappointing for sure."
In the first half, John Herd gave Cheyenne Mountain its first lead of the game when he beat Matthew Pipan in the 37th minute.
In the end the Indians overcame their toughest test all season - the second half - to grab another state title to put in their school's trophy case.