COLORADO SPRINGS — When Colorado Academy’s Simeon Woldeyohannes took a minute to get back up from a tackle in the 77th minute of the Class 3A state soccer championship match, he flashed a three and a one with his hands to the Coal Ridge student section.

The top-seeded Mustangs’ senior leading man, who netted his 21st goal of the season in the 60th minute, played with the swagger of a champion. He served a pivotal role in leading his team to a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Coal Ridge to secure its third state championship in four years at Weidner Field on Saturday afternoon.

The Mustangs have hoisted that trophy seven times since 1998.

“I give credit to my coaches and my teammates for helping me out,” Woldeyohannes said. “It was tough in the beginning, being a leader, kind of embracing a new role, but I embraced it and I wanted to lead these guys. I’m so happy we could lead them to another trophy.”

The Mustangs’ collective effort was an amalgamation of big moments against the Titans.

In the final five minutes of the contest, junior keeper Clyde Love denied Coal Ridge’s Isaac Thompson on the precipice of a goal line when, in the melee that followed a corner kick, he threw his body down to stop the Titans from making it a 3-2 game late.

At the start of the season, he traded his basketball sneakers for soccer cleats for his first season in the high-school level sport. He’s been a menace in the box ever since, making 96 saves prior to Saturday’s game while only allowing nine goals.

(Alissa Noe)

“It was really close. I just saw bodies all around me and I tried to grab the ball. My heart, it was beating so fast before. It was just nice that I made the save,” he said. We lost our keepers. Last year, it was their senior year, so I tried out as a goalkeeper to help out the team and I ended up being able to help us get here.”

The winningest program in 3A asserted its dominance from the start of the contest, controlling play early to allow junior midfielder Caleb Mengistu to put one on the back of the net in the sixth minute, but Coal Ridge played toe-to-toe with Goliath in the time that followed.

After spending the latter 20 minutes of the first half riding their own momentum, the Titans finally broke through in the 51st minute. Junior defender Thompson, who had been pressuring Love all day, played a ball that ricocheted off of a free kick attempt to tie the contest up at 1-1.

That draw, while exhilarating for the Titans, was fleeting. Woldeyohannes, not satisfied with that score, made his voice heard with a one-on-one matchup with Coal Ridge keeper Colbran Ingelhart and beat him out to put the Mustangs up 2-1 in the 60th minute.

Christoff Zimmerman dotted the exclamation point with one last goal nine minutes later.

In the immediate aftermath of their victory, Woldeyohannes lamented that his team had had to play with a target on its back from the first game to the last in 2023. It looks the Mustangs will have to deal with that bullseye just a little bit longer.

“It’s so funny because on the outside looking in, it looks and feels like a dynasty,” head coach Gabe Bernstein said. “For us, it’s really just hard work, and it culminates in this opportunity to play for a trophy. We put in so much time and energy early in the season so that this is just the fun part.”