File, The Gazette

FREDERICK --  Atlas Preparatory hadn’t tasted defeat since Aug. 24 – the Gryphons’ season opener at Cheyenne Mountain.

The run that followed – 17 straight wins, outscoring opponents 86-13 – ended in the 3A state semifinals. The second-seeded Gryphons carried a lead well into the second half Wednesday but couldn’t put away No. 11 Roaring Fork (16-3), which surged to a 3-1 victory.

“We lacked motivation in the second half,” senior Manuel Pelayo, one of the team captains, said. “We thought we had it and then we let some goals pass and it got to our heads.”

Atlas Prep (17-2) shut out Peak to Peak and DSST: Byers before beating Lutheran 2-1 in the playoffs. It looked every bit a confident team that hadn’t lost in nearly three months in the early stages.

Less than five minutes into the game, senior Aron Flores broke through the defense and put a shot into the bottom corner of the goal. It was his 26th of the season, a rate of almost two per game in his only season at Atlas Prep.

“We always count on him for those,” coach Teo Jackson said.

Flores also contributed 11 assists. He had sole possession of second in Class 3A in points and goals Wednesday before the Rams came roaring back.

About nine minutes into the second half, the mood in the stadium shifted. Roaring Fork’s Daniel Vega was waiting to put back a shot that couldn’t be corralled. Emiliano Magana, who came in with 24 goals on the season, blew the game open with a pair of impressive efforts.

“We weren’t on and off the ball fast enough. We kind of crumbled there for a minute,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t take long for it to go the opposite direction.

“Two in quick succession and all of the sudden, you’re under.”

Down 3-1 in the 71st minute, the Gryphons struggled to sustain pressure. Roaring Fork advanced to the 3A championship game against top-seeded Jefferson Academy on Friday at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs.

It was further than the Gryphons made it last season, when they lost to Delta in the first round. Their run in 2019 also ended in the semifinals.

With one last “1-2-3, family!” - and they are indeed like a family, Pelayo said – the last Atlas Prep run for the nine graduating seniors was over.

“We were trying to take that next step,” Jackson said. “Wasn’t going to happen today.”

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