The Sand Creek soccer team started the season with the one-word motto: “believe.”
Belief was a necessity if the Scorpions wanted to reach their lofty goals of winning a league and state title after Sand Creek narrowly missed the playoffs in 2016.
Senior striker Garrett Kramer instilled faith in his teammates by scoring 21 goals and adding seven assists as the Scorpions cruised to a 10-0 start.
After the Scorpions concluded a 14-2-1 campaign with a loss to Denver North in the second round of the state playoffs, Kramer led the state - regardless of classification - with 32 goals and 75 points to earn The Gazette Preps Boys’ Soccer Peak Performer of the Year.
His final goal, good for the state’s golden boot, was a volley from roughly 30 yards out that brought the Scorpions level with sixth-seeded Denver North, eventually forcing overtime.
The senior knew he got the strike right off his foot but was still left with a sense of shock watching it beat the keeper.
“I’ll probably never forget that moment,” Kramer said.
“It was pretty fantastic,” Sand Creek coach Jeremy Tafoya added.
Unfortunately for Sand Creek, the Vikings scored the game-winner in second overtime, minutes after what could’ve been Kramer’s 33rd goal ricocheted off the post.
“It just seemed like it was one of those games,” Tafoya said, feeling like the Scorpions were the better team for much of the action.
Kramer ended his senior year with 11 assists and scored in a variety of ways. Outside of the run of play, the Sand Creek senior scored multiple goals off set pieces and finished a number of teammate Jesse Bridge’s long, looping throw-ins with his head.
He was such an integral part of the Scorpions’ dangerous attack - the team scored more than six goals per game - Dakota Ridge man-marked him all over the pitch during a September game.
“From the start of the game, they had a guy just following him around the field,” Tafoya said. “It didn’t matter where he went.”
Tafoya moved Kramer all over to test the Eagles’ commitment to the rarely seen strategy, and the Scorpions’ star striker still managed a goal in a 6-2 win.
There were few teams capable of keeping Kramer out of the back of the net, as he scored in 15 of his team’s 17 contests, including 12 multi-goal games. Kramer started the year with a five-goal outing in a mercy-rule win over Coronado and later recorded hat tricks against Englewood and Vista Ridge.
He would’ve traded those goals for a trophy, he said.
“We just wanted to get there because we knew that this would be the year,” Kramer said.
“It was definitely tough, but I just tried to do the best for the team.”
The Scorpions added four wins to last year’s total with their only regular season loss coming at the hands of Air Academy, the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference and 4A state champions.
Making the leap forward for his first trip to state was made better by the company.
“I have a couple club teammates on the team that are seniors and a couple juniors I’ve known awhile,” Kramer said. “It just made it more special being with people you’ve known for awhile.”
Sand Creek’s star will forge new relationships next fall, as he’s committed the Colorado Mesa men’s soccer team, a program that qualified for the Division II NCAA Tournament this fall.
Tafoya said he thinks Kramer has the ability to help the Mavericks early thanks to his technical ability.
More importantly, the Sand Creek coach believes Kramer will continue to succeed when the boots are hung up for good.
“Everyone knows the stats. For me, with him, it was his leadership. He’s just one of those good kids.,” Tafoya said.
“He’s going to win at life.”