Monument - What began as a commonplace free kick didn't end that way, and it proved to be the difference Wednesday night as the No. 11 seed Palmer Ridge boys' soccer team (10-5-1) fell 1-0 to No. 22 Ponderosa (12-4) in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs at Don Breese Stadium.
After a foul near midfield against Palmer Ridge, Ponderosa senior captain Jacob Cade sent a driven ball into the box. It found the head of the waiting Joseph Maxie, another senior captain, who sent a looping header over the reach of Palmer Ridge senior goalkeeper Mason Cresap for the game's only goal with 23:44 left in the second half.
"I saw the ball coming in," Maxie said, "and I was trying to flick it to one of my teammates. I wasn't trying to score."
But score he did, and that was enough to move his team on and end the season for Palmer Ridge.
In a game that was even throughout, Palmer Ridge and Ponderosa traded quality chances, as both teams were able to find opportunities for crosses into the box, but neither team could capitalize.
That inability to find the final scoring touch early in the game was critical, said Palmer Ridge coach Nick Odil.
"We created chances in the first half, but we didn't take them," Odil said. "We've been able to get goals in most of our games this season, but not tonight. We have to finish our opportunities when we get them."
The first half saw Palmer Ridge get behind the Ponderosa defense on several occasions, but cut-back crosses either didn't find a Bear or the ensuing shots were blocked. Solid stops from both goalkeepers, including a sliding rejection by Cresap at the top of the box 16 minutes in, kept the game scoreless at halftime.
Wednesday was only the third time Palmer Ridge had been shut out this season.
Odil added he thought his team was outworked by Ponderosa, something he said he talked about with his players after the game.
"I don't think we put our best effort out on the field," he said. "I don't want to take anything away from Ponderosa, they're big and strong and good in the air, but we got outworked tonight.
"With a little more effort, maybe we have a different result."
The closest the Bears came to scoring was with 15 minutes left, as an attempted tip over the Ponderosa goalkeeper hit the crossbar and stayed out. The flurry of pressure from the Bears after that didn't amount to anything.
"It's just one of those things," Odil said. "It didn't go in tonight."
Ponderosa will face No. 6 seed Denver West in the second round Tuesday.