Titans catch fire late in first half, punch ticket to 4A state soccer finals

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Photo - The Classical Academy players, including Jonny Stephens, right, celebrate their 5-0 win over Durango in their 4A state soccer semifinal game Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at Echo Park Stadium in Parker. Stephens had two goals in the game. TCA will play in the championship game Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
The Classical Academy players, including Jonny Stephens, right, celebrate their 5-0 win over Durango in their 4A state soccer semifinal game Wednesday, November 9, 2016 at Echo Park Stadium in Parker. Stephens had two goals in the game. TCA will play in the championship game Saturday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

It was only a matter of time before The Classical Academy broke through.

TCA scored three goals in the last 14 minutes of the first half - two in a 38-second span - and the third-seeded Titans rolled past No. 7 Durango 5-0 at EchoPark Stadium on Wednesday night to advance to the Class 4A state championship game for the third consecutive season.

It will be the Titans' fourth consecutive trip to the state title game, after reaching the finals in 2013 as a 3A team.

"We're excited," said Jonny Stephens, who scored the Titans' first two. "We're hoping this is our year, but we can't take anything for granted."

When Titus Grant tacked on TCA's fourth goal just three minutes into the second half, the Titans (17-2) were well on their way.

The Titans will play No. 9 Battle Mountain, which defeated No. 12 Pueblo West later Wednesday night.

Stephens made it 1-0 when he pounded home a rebound of Grant's shot. About 11 minutes later, Stephens headed home a long throw from Jeremy Baldes.

"I don't even know at this point how many goals we've scored off that," TCA coach Blake Galvin said. "It has been just deadly all season long."

Grant, the Titans' leading goal scorer all four of his seasons, missed the 2015 state championship game after receiving a red card (two yellows) in the semifinals.

He had to watch from the sideline as the Titans lost 1-0 in last season's finale. This year, he made sure he wasn't going to miss out.

"I put it behind me," said Grant, who will sign in the spring to go to Seattle Pacific. "I came into this game thinking I'll just have fun today. I think that's what we did, we had a very fun game."

TCA showed it could counter the Demons' early high press by breaking Grant and Jaden Borja on the counter to get a number of scoring chances. Both players had one-on-one opportunities with Durango goalie Trey Furnas.

Borja made it 3-0 against the Demons (17-2) when he broke in on Furnas off a through ball and chipped it home. That goal came 38 seconds after Stephens' second.

Grant's first came on a left-footed blast into the low far corner. His second was into an open goal as Baldes dished to Grant with Furnas caught out of net.

"I think this was a regular game for us," Grant said. ". I think we're just looking forward to Saturday and hopefully we'll get the result we want."