LAKEWOOD -- In a second consecutive season in which they could only land a lower seed in the Class 4A bracket, Mullen’s Mustangs knew what to expect.
A year ago, they missed their chance to shake up the playoffs by squandering an opportunity to take down No. 2 Skyview in the opening round.
On Saturday, they entered as the No. 27 seed and had another away match, this one against once-beaten Alameda International, the sixth seed.
And they didn’t let this one get away.
Eli Kerschen and A.J. Gamueda each had a goal and an assist as Mullen took down the 4A-3A Colorado 7 League champion Pirates 2-0 at Lakewood mMmorial Field.
The Mustangs improved to 9-6-1 on the season and move on to the next round against the No. 11 Denver North Vikings on Tuesday. The Vikings got past Cheyenne Mountain 2-1 in overtime.
Alameda International ended 14-2.
“So it was kind of like last year,” Kerschen, a sophomore, said in pointing to the Mustangs missing a late penalty kick in 2018. “We knew we could compete against these 4A teams no matter what our seed is because we’re playing the best 5A teams in (the Centennial) League. So we were pretty confident coming in and we don’t want to lose.”
In also understanding the importance of grabbing an early lead in playoff soccer, the Mustangs did that, too, with Kerschen scoring from out front off a feed from A.J. Gamueda in the fifth minute.
Twelve minutes later, Gamueda scored from Kerschen for a 2-0 edge and Mullen’s solid defense did the rest.
“We protected, which we did, and that was kind of what the plan was,” Mustangs head coach Matthew Guglielmo said. “We figured (the Pirates) would be a very good team, we watched them on film and we looked at their results. And we had two great practice sessions (including one indoors on Friday after school was closed Monday-to-Wednesday). We knew they could play and
we like to think we can, too.”
In addition to Kerschen and Gamueda, Luke Elges turned in a strong match.
“We put them away early,” the senior said. “We got two goals right off the bat and we just defended really well. We used our heads to clear in the air and didn’t let their pressure get to us.”
Kerschen agreed. “Yes,” he said of leading early, “especially against teams like this that are really quick and really good … if you can score early, it kind of brings down their confidence.”
Mullen had two other scoring chances, one that hit a post, and Alameda ripped one off the crossbar in the 51st minute after a free kick out front.
“But we were able to clear,” Guglielmo said.
The coach also cited the play of sophomore keeper Ethan Heffern as well as that of Andrew DeBerardinis, Nolan Cooper and Cole Dempsey as “a lot of guys did the grunt work in the middle.
You need that because there are hundreds of one-on-one battles you have to win.”
Alameda International had outscored its opposition by a combined 62-12 entering the match and had not been shut out all season.
Further incentive for the Mustangs in the next round – Denver North knocked them out of te first round in 2-17 and Mullen hasn’t been past the preliminaries since 2016.
“Honestly,” Elges said, “just getting the experience with our young players is huge and to have a playoff win is just different.”