ENGLEWOOD — If there was an election next week for mayor of Ralston Valley High School, Evan Bierman would likely win in a landslide.
“Evan Bierman is a hero,” Ralston Valley junior captain Cole Creasey said after the No. 8-seeded Mustangs upset top-seeded Legacy 1-0 in a Class 5A boys soccer state quarterfinal Nov. 5 at Randy Penn Stadium at Englewood High School.
With the Mustangs (13-5 record) clinging to a 1-0 lead in the final minutes, the junior goalie made a series of four saves from point-blank range to complete the shutout victory in Ralston Valley’s first-ever trip to the state quarterfinals.
“Four huge, huge saves late to keep it where it was,” Ralston Valley coach Jamie Scarcliff said of Bierman’s saves in the final minutes, including stopping a penalty shot by Legacy senior Tate Hansen in the 79th minute. “He came up huge. Those saves helped us finish off that little bit.”
A foul was called inside Ralston Valley’s goalie box with 1:14 left in regulation time. It seemed likely that the Lightning (16-2) would likely finally get on the scoreboard and send the game into overtime.
Bierman had other plans.
“Being up 1-0 most of the game and having to go to overtime would have been the worst scenario for us,” Bierman said. “We’ve done a lot of PKs in practice. I’ve been kind of on and off on PKs. I had made some big saves before that to give me some confidence.”
Hansen fired a low shot to Bierman’s right. The junior, who missed last season due to injury, made the save, but gave up the rebound to Hansen who had a second chance to put it into the back of the net.
“You just get a gut feeling from the shooter from where he looks,” Bierman said of his strategy facing a PK. “You just guess. I guessed the right way. On the rebound shot I just tried to get big and made that second save.”
Just over a minute later the Mustangs were able to celebrate the historic playoff win. Ralston Valley will face No. 12 Fairview in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, back at Randy Penn Stadium. The Knights (12-5-1) upset No. 4 Broomfield 2-1 in overtime in the first of four state quarterfinal games Saturday.
“I’m so, so proud of them,” Scarcliff as the Mustangs’ longest postseason run in the program’s history continues. “I was a little worried in the second half because it looked like we were retreating a little bit, but they battled hard and worked to the end.”
The lone goal of the game came off the head of Creasey at the 20-minute in the first half. With a ton of bodies in front of Legacy senior goalie Wesley Hempelmann, Creasey managed to get a head on a loose ball.
“It was a mosh pit,” Creasey said of the play. “I saw Cooper Hineline head it backwards. I saw it above my head and thought if I jumped I could get my head on it. I felt it hit off my head, but didn’t see anything. As soon as I turned around I saw it in the back of the net.”
Creasy and his backline teammates were instrumental in keeping Legacy scoreless for the first time all season.
“The game plan going into the game was me, Ryan Mann and Nathan Coggins to keep a clean sheet in this game,” Creasey said of the job ahead of the Mustangs' defenders facing a Lightning squad that was on a 10-game winning streak and hadn’t been shutout since Legacy’s state semifinal loss to Grandview nearly a year ago. “We did just that.”
The other 5A semifinal will feature No. 3 Valor Christian and No. 2 Denver East. Ralston Valley suffered 2-1 losses to both the Eagles and Angels earlier this season.
“We proved today that we are a strong contender for the state championship,” Bierman said. “Now we have momentum going into the semifinals to make more history.”
Ralston Valley will take a five-game winning streak into the semifinals.
“No one would have told us at the beginning of the season that we would be in the state semifinals,” Creasey said. “Obviously, we aren’t finished. We want to go to the finals and win it all.”
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