The late game header sends a Coal Ridge soccer ball to Elite 8

Brayden Dakuma, a sophomore for the Titans, dribbles a defender during an official match against Faith Christian on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erko / Independent Mail

The Cole Ridge Football Team is not some kind of corner kick. Head coach Michael Michalkis guesses they scored, what might it be from a corner kick twice all season?

That all changed on a sunny and balmy Tuesday afternoon after the Titans took advantage of a late-game corner kick against Faith Christian, which proved they won 2-1.

“I think we only grow as one team,” Alexis Serna Jr. said to the Titans. “We are getting better every day, in training, games. We see a jump in our skills, and we end up pushing more every day.”

The Eagles were ranked 19th in the Colorado State High School 3A Athletics Championships. They advanced to play the Titans at home after losing the 14th seed DSST: Conservatory 2-1 in the first round.

Ray K. Erko / Independent Mail

Cole Ridge’s third-placed team defeated the 30th-seeded Sierra in the first round 3-1, with Serna and seniors Ezra Williams and Filiberto Mariz all scoring.

Regarding his victory over Faith Christian, Michalkis said it was all about stabilizing his team and playing their game. It was a win that saw the Titans overcome a one-point deficit.

“We got it wrong once and they got the score,” he said. “I think that woke us up again – two playoffs in a row, unfortunately.”

On Tuesday, Giovanni Parker, the new student of the Titans, showed his upper-class classmates that age is nothing but a number. Parker tied 1-1 late in the game by heading a header past Eagles goalkeeper Zach Cohoon from a corner kick from Williams.

“I knew Ezra was going to have a perfect cross and I was just there and I hit her as hard as I could,” Parker said of the play. “I was happy and proud of my captain.”

Little Alexis Serna titans wrestle for the ball before slotting it into the net against Faith Christian on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erko / Independent Mail

Advancing 2-1 with 4:13 left to play, it ended up being the decisive goal as the Titans successfully closed the match.

“We don’t get a lot of tight opportunities,” Michalkis said. “It is good to take advantage of what we did today. I think when you are drunk like that, it is the heart and the pride that puts the ball into the net.”

There is no doubt that the Eagles’ attack was aggressive throughout the match. In fact, they forced the Titans to give up at least four corner kicks in the second half.

Eagles Junior Caleb Castle scored the first goal of the match with 4:16 before the end of the first half. He dribbled his way into an open space near the top of the 18 and shot it home past Titans goalkeeper Jorge Keistler.

“Our team is very confident,” Parker said. “We knew we were disappointed but we wouldn’t let that discourage us. We will do our best to achieve that goal.”

Just like that, Christian’s faith leadership proved to be short-lived. After a Titans free kick, which rebounded off the crossbar just outside of the 18. Eagle range, Serna fought hard for a choppy rebound, putting it past Cohoon at 7 seconds left.

“It was a rubbish target,” Sirna joked. “But she entered.”

Titans rookie Giovanni Parker celebrates with his team after beating Faith Christian at his home on Tuesday.
Ray K. Erko / Independent Mail

The Eagles responded with more offensive possession in the second half. In the 26th minute, Kassel scored another goal against Keistler, but the goal was offside.

“We kept pushing through it,” Sirna said. “The team was really physical and we kept our heads, we played 110% of it throughout the game.”

Winning now means the Titans host 22nd seed Middle Park on Saturday. The Panthers snatched 2-1 in the second round at 6th seed KIPP Denver Collegiate on Tuesday.

“I’m really excited about our team, seeing us go that far,” Parker said. “We will put in some hard work during training to make sure everything is going well and we are doing our best.”

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