An early score by Colorado Springs Christian's soccer team had Delta fans on edge. A vicious wind made any kick, or pass, anything but a sure bet to arrive at an intended target last Saturday in Colorado Springs' UCCS Mountain Lion Stadium.
Neither team had the winds' favor due to unpredictable swirling throughout much of the contest.
A questionable foul, near Delta's penalty box, ended up being the game's winning goal on a penalty kick with 12:15 left in regulation play. The Lions went on to slip past Delta 3-2 and advance to this week's semifinal round in Denver.
Colorado Springs seemed to have the edge in the early going and was playing in Delta's end of the field more than in its own end of the field on defense.
Consequently, the Lions picked up a goal at the 37:56 mark in first-half play to take a 1-0 lead.
The two teams battled on even terms for the remainder of the first 40 minutes with Colorado Springs taking the 1-0 lead to half time.
An aggressive style of play by the Lions was met with equal determination from the Panthers. Each team, unofficially, had an equal number of free kicks in the opening half. Colorado Springs scored on its second shot of the game.
Colorado Springs tacked on its second score with their first shot on goal in the second half (39:34) and had the momentum, and a 2-0 lead.
Delta picked up its intensity and made sustained runs deep inside Lion territory but could not find the net.
The Panthers did find a crack in Colorado Springs' defense at the 35:37 mark with sophomore Nathan Downey accounting for Delta's first score. Sophomore Martin Corral dished the ball to Downey for an assist.
After that Delta played with a renewed energy and used senior Brandon Harper's goal from the right-front of the goal to tie the game at 2-2. Harper's score came at 26:15.
The two teams traded possession for another 23 minutes before the ill-fated penalty was whistled against the Panthers. There was confusion as to where the foul actually occurred before the foul was declared to have occurred inside the penalty box and presented the Lions with a penalty kick. Delta's outstanding keeper, Felipe Bedoy, was unable to get a hand on the ball and Colorado Springs had a disputed 3-2 lead with 12:15 left in the match.
Delta expended all its reserved energy in getting the ball past midfield but could not sustain a scoring drive in the final moments of play. The 3-2 loss eliminated the Panthers from this year's 3A State Soccer Championships.
Delta (14-3-1), the No. 12 seed in the tournament, gave the fourth-seeded Lions (16-2) all they could handle before bowing out of the race. Bedoy had a stellar season in goal with just nine goals allowed in 1330 minutes of work and finished with a 13-2-1 record, including nine shutouts.
Colorado Springs Christian's goals were scored by seniors Tanner MacKay (two goals) and Michael Benthem. Lion's goal keeper Josh Erickson allowed two goals while keeping nine attempted shots from reaching the nets. Erickson has a 9-1 record heading to the semifinals this week.
Delta's appearance in the Elite Eight was the best finish since the soccer program moved to Delta in 2012.
A brief list of some of the accomplishments achieved by several players are posted in a scoreboard section in today's sports section.
Colorado Springs moves on to play No. 8, and the only unbeaten team in the field, Liberty Common (18-0) at Englewood High School on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 5 p.m.
In the other semifinal round contest, No. 3 Colorado Academy (14-4) takes on No. 2 Kent Denver (16-1-1) at Englewood High School with a 7 p.m. starting time.
The 3A title game will be played on Nov. 11 at 11 a.m.