The Lewis-Palmer boys’ soccer team embraced the underdog role throughout the 2019 season under coach Brian Barkey, but the Rangers will need a new mindset next season.
The Rangers won’t be sneaking up on any team after winning a highly competitive Pikes Peak Athletic Conference and advancing to the state semifinals, a run that earned Barkey Gazette Preps boys’ soccer coach of the year honors.
Barkey’s squad fit the underdog description early in the season. The Rangers started 1-3 losing to Golden, Rampart and The Classical Academy and only beating a struggling Mitchell program.
The turnaround started in the 2-1 loss to TCA. Barkey could see the team establishing more possession even though there were still some moving parts. It took a bit to figure out where to best use junior Tyler Pritchard. He started playing in the midfield but eventually starred in his outside-back role.
“Once we got him in the back, it was clear that was the best place for him to help the team,” Barkey said.
An 11-match winning streak that spanned the rest of the regular season started with a 2-1 win against Denver North, which played for the state championship the season before. The win streak included a perfect run through league play where the Rangers outscored opponents 30-1. The high point was a 2-1 win at Air Academy, the defending state champions. At that time, the Rangers didn’t feel much like underdogs.
“This was the one team I truly believed they could go out and beat Air Academy,” Barkey said.
“You could see coming in they were very confident.”
The Rangers returned to underdog status in the state quarterfinals where No. 8 Lewis-Palmer traveled to top-seeded Battle Mountain. The Rangers led 2-0 after the first half and advanced to the state semis with a 3-1 win.
“To beat them on their own field was just tremendous,” Barkey said.
“What a great day that was.”
That was the 15th and final win of the season, as Air Academy exacted some revenge with a hard-fought 2-1 win to advance to the final.
With Pritchard and three of the team’s top four scorers returning in Ethan Mann, Cole Mooney and Charlie Holland, the Rangers will no longer be underdogs when they return to the field in 2020.
In 2019, they rode that mindset to a league championship and semifinal berth.
“They really, really relished being an underdog,” Barkey said of his 15-4 Rangers.
“It was just neat to be a part of. I’m really proud of them.”