MONUMENT • The bubble Lewis-Palmer boys’ soccer coach Brian Barkey tried to construct around his team ahead of its Class 4A playoff opener against No. 25 Mesa Ridge showed signs of strain Saturday at Don Breese Stadium but ultimately survived.
“Some things got into it,” Barkey said after the Rangers’ 5-2 win.
The bubble’s purpose was to shield any outside influence or expectations in hopes the Rangers could continue to do the things that produced a 12-3 regular season, a Pikes Peak Athletic Conference championship and the No. 8 seed in the state bracket.
An early Mesa Ridge goal, and a near second, could’ve popped the Rangers’ playoff run.
“We came in thinking we were going to run all over them, but they definitely brought their A game, too,” Lewis-Palmer junior Ethan Mann said.
The Grizzlies got the first goal 15 minutes in when junior JJ Dickerson elevated and headed home a corner kick. Mesa Ridge nearly doubled the lead a little more than 10 minutes later, but Ranger defender Joey Fiocchi headed the ball off the goal line. Keeper Aidan McGonagle quickly gathered the ball and started a counter that finished with Charles Holland slotting a pass to Cole Mooney, who had a simple finish from in close.
Barkey reinforced his points at the half with the teams knotted at 1 and the loser seeing its season end.
“One of my comments was ‘We have to play this game like it’s any game,’” Barkey said. “So any game, if we go down, we want to fight and get level and do whatever it takes.”
The Rangers once again fell behind after a goal early in the second half when Caleb DesBouillons snuck in behind a Ranger defender and put his head to a lobbed cross from Dorrien Hill.
Kyle Costa, the Grizzlies’ senior goalkeeper, made a couple of diving saves to preserve the lead but couldn’t prevent Holland from equalizing in the 59th minute. A minute later, Mann headed in a cross to give the Rangers their first lead with 20 minutes to play.
“Once we started playing our game, we dominated,” Holland said.
Tyler Davis and Nate Jeffson added late goals to get the Rangers through to the second round.
“It’s unfortunate. We played one hell of a game. We stuck with them,” Mesa Ridge coach Mario Sigala said.
“It was a great game. Great on Lewis-Palmer’s part. Good luck to them.”
The Rangers’ reward is a second-round date with Pueblo Centennial, the No. 9 seed.
“We can’t come out like we just did,” Holland said. “I think if we play like we did at the end, I think there’s only a few teams that can beat us.”
The Rangers are expected to host the Bulldogs, who advanced by beating Palmer Ridge 1-0, on Tuesday.
“We talk about jobs and roles and responsibilities. Sometimes the message is lost because they see the importance of the game and they start panicking or thinking it’s more important than it really is. You just have to do what you did to get here,” Barkey said. “But I’m really proud of the mindset they did gather. It took a lot of composure and poise.”