There are many reasons why the Boulder High boys soccer team is the defending Class 5A state champion. One reason is that the Panthers are good at scoring goals and perhaps better at preventing them.
I'm pretty good at tallying them on a notepad, and I played a ton of FIFA on Playstation in college, so I thought I might try to beat them at their own game. In typical Brad vs. BoCoPreps fashion, I went down to Boulder High School and challenged goalkeeper Henry Huettel and striker Wyeth Leemon to a penalty kick shootout.
Huettel is an all-state goalkeeper who made 67 saves and had six shutouts in 19 games last season. Leemon is the most heavily-recruited forward on the Panthers roster. How could I lose?
In the hope of making it reasonably competitive, I demanded that one help me to beat the other.
After a bit of coaching from the Panthers' big guns, I felt ready to get my Lionel Messi on.
-- Don't kick it right at Huettel.
-- Don't miss the goal.
Inspiring words. Despite Leemon's obvious confidence in my goal-scoring prowess, I failed repeatedly at one or the other.
I spent most of the afternoon playing pepper with Huettel's stomach or chasing the ball after firing wide of the goal from 12 yards away. I think I actually made a field goal through the football uprights above the goal.
Each time I came up with a respectable shot, Huettel turned it into a spectacular save. "Maybe I'll do better in goal," I thought. "At least I can use my hands."
Wishful thinking. But wrong.
After a quick chuckle about my height and the baseball gloves and dirty Nike sneakers I was attempting to pass off as soccer equipment, Huettel gave me a few tips:
-- You're not expected to save it. "Especially you," he said, raising his hand above my head as if you say, "You must be this tall to ride this ride, little man."
-- Don't be afraid to get hit below the belt.
-- Dive. You have to dive. Don't forget to dive.
I didn't dive. I didn't do much of anything.
Leemon effortlessly placed the ball with enough power to where I had little or no chance of making a save, even if I had known what I was doing, had dove and had been a more than a two-year varsity forward nearly a decade ago in high school.
Each time he playfully put the ball in the goal like I wasn't there, I thought, "Man, Huettel made this look kind of easy. I kind of stink."
I didn't get hit below the belt though. So I had that going for me.
Seriously, though, these kids are good. I watched them win the school's first state championship last November at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. I was impressed by their ability from the press box then and having seen it up close, there's no more mystery as to why they're the team to beat in 2013.
The Panthers think they could win another state title this year and after this latest lesson in humility I'm tempted to agree with them.
Still, at least I didn't get hit below the belt.
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