DENVER -- Fort Lupton's Santiago Gonzalez was a busy young man Oct. 27.
He and his teammates played 86-plus minutes of scoreless soccer in the opening round of the state 3A soccer playoffs at Strive Prep SMART Schooil.
Gonzalez scored the winning goal with a blistering shot seven minutes into overtime. Then his teammates "pummeled" him. Gonzalez took congratulatory hugs from his family, some more hugs and congratulations from his teammates. One even climbed on his back in celebration.
After a few more hugs and back-slaps, Gonzalez desribed the golden goal.
"It was exciting," said a winded Gonzalez. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move on. Sorry. I'm just excited."
A foul on the Ocelots set up the game-winner.
"I was like, 'Let me take it. Let me take it,'" Gonzalez said. "Right there, i was,, 'Right here. This is the game-winner.'"
"A little too close for comfort," said FLHS coach Kyle Reddy. "I've been telling these boys all season that good teams find a way to win. They believed in each other. Coming off last year (a 1-0 loss in the state tournament to then-top seed Colorado Academy), a lotof the boys were hurt by it. They bounced back. I have teachers coming up to me in school saying they are taking care of their grades. That translates over to the soccer field."
Fort Lupton outplayed Strive Prep for much of the second half and the overtime but couldn't get past Ocelots goalkeeper Daniel Barrientos. At one point, the Bluedevils outshot Strive Prep 8-1 in the second half, and Barrientos' sprawling saves pushed the game into the extra session.
"We had most of the advantage," Gonzalez said. "The ball was mostly on their side. We were playmaking, pressing more. Our team didn't give up. We kept on fighting. It was frustrating. We knew we had to keep going until the last minute."
"We created so many opportunities, but we took them for granted," Reddy said. "We don't put the focus into it. We get a little ahead of ourselves. We just kept pounding on the door."
This marks Fort Lupton's fourth straight appearance in the state playoffs. FLHS last advanced to the second round of state in 2019. FLHS and Strive Prep met in the playoffs in 2018.
FLHS visits Jefferson Academy in the second round at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2.
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