PARKER - For a little more than 42 minutes Wednesday at Sports Authority Stadium, Ponderosa withstood wave after Air Academy wave, managing to stay within striking distance of the top-seeded team in the 4A boys' soccer playoffs.
Then, in a span of 55 seconds, Air Academy broke through in a big way.
Gabriel Stuger scored twice in the second half off assists from Brittain Romes, highlighting a three-goal outburst in 10 minutes as Air Academy (18-1) blanked Ponderosa 4-0 to advance to state finals for the first time since winning it all in 2010.
"I think we're peaking at the right time," said Kadets junior Austin Dewing, who added his team-high 23rd goal. "We're working well and have a lot of team chemistry. We had always been on the losing side in the playoffs the last few years, so this is nice."
Ponderosa ended the season 14-4-1 after its second trip to the semifinals.
Stuger, moved up from the defensive backfield to start the second half, immediately found himself in position to score. Just 2:25 into the half, his nifty redirection of a Romes cross found the back of the net and a 2-0 Kadets lead.
"I knew Gabriel could play up there," Air Academy coach Espen Hosoien said. "He has good speed, and I felt like we had an advantage there if we put him on the other side of Austin (Dewing). It paid off pretty quickly."
Not quite a minute later, Dewing drilled home a rebound after Alex Granados cranked a shot off the crossbar to give the Kadets a three-goal cushion.
"In the second half, we tried to mix things up and moved one of our defensive center mids up to create more opportunities," Mustangs goalkeeper Kyran Johnson said. "They came out and possessed the ball, got it wide and played it across. We were outnumbered in the back and they scored some quick goals."
Stuger finished the scoring with 27:47 left, taking a nice through-ball from Romes and sneaking a dribbler under a charging Johnson.
"Definitely, the first goal is the hardest," Dewing said. "We were just patient, and our defense did a good job of holding them off and letting our offense work and get a few in."
Once the Kadets offense got on track, it was a hard machine to stop.
"I knew I was going to be busy," said Johnson, who had five saves, "but I didn't think it was going to be that bad. It didn't work for us today, but they're a great side, the best team we've played all year."
Air Academy's defense limited Ponderosa to three shots on goal in the first half, while the quick Kadets offense forced an early mistake that led to the first goal.
After a hard foul near the top of the box, Conner Claus tapped a short pass to Granados, who blasted a low shot that beat Johnson to the right post for a 1-0 lead 6:06 into the game.
Kadets defender David Louthan made the biggest save of the half, hustling back to save an own-goal with a sliding stab that preserved the 1-0 lead with 29:40 left.