COLORADO SPRINGS - Owen Braley couldn’t have picked a better time to boot his free kick.
With 38.3 seconds remaining in overtime, the Palmer Ridge senior midfielder noticed that Cheyenne Mountain junior goalkeeper Erich Frey was busy positioning his defense. That’s when Braley, standing 30 yards out, figured it was a good time to kick the ball. Moments later it sailed through the outstretched arms of Frey and into the back of the net for a 3-2 Bears victory in the Sept. 20 game played at Cheyenne Mountain.
“Owen saw that (Frey) was out of position,” said Palmer Ridge coach Nick Odil. “He’s scored some really big time goals for us. This was right up there.”
The victory was important on many levels. It was the Class 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference opener for both teams. It was also the first time in three attempts that Palmer Ridge defeated the traditional state power. Cheyenne Mountain knocked Palmer Ridge out of the playoffs with a second-round victory in 2011.
“That was an awesome way to start (league),” Odil said. “But we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot of games to play.”
It was the fourth overtime game of the season for the Bears, who have three wins and a tie in those Matches. Palmer Ridge (6-1-1) needed the victory to get back on track after losing to Valor Christian, 3-1, on Sept. 18.
“I was really happy with the way the kids responded (after the loss to Valor Christian),” Odil said.
Odil cited a quote by legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi as being the team’s motto this year: “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”
“I think we’ve shown that we’ve been able to meet the challenges,” Odil said. “We’ve got a trough schedule and we’ve had some good learning experiences.”
Braley is a tri-captain along with senior attacker Luke Sinkola and senior defender Andrew Bell. The trio has helped stabilize a talented Bears team that has outscored opponents 19-8. That experience helped Palmer Ridge keep pace in the back-and-forth game with Cheyenne Mountain.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute on a goal by senior attacker Grant Ellis. Braley was credited with the assist. Four minutes later, Cheyenne Mountain tied the score on a free kick goal by senior Tyler Burns.
The Indians went ahead 2-1 in the 25th minute on a penalty kick by junior Blake McNelis. The Bears tied it up 10 minutes later when Sinkola scored off a pass from Bell.
The second half was more of a defensive stalemate, eventually leading to Braley’s heroics.