Editor's note: Below is the state title game advance that originally ran Friday. The game was postponed on Saturday due to weather and will be played at 6 p.m. Monday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Moments after Boulder secured the program's first berth in the Class 5A boys soccer state championship game, Panthers coach Hardy Kalisher felt compelled to pull out his phone in order to share a picture.
The image Kalisher showed off was the bare lower leg of junior midfielder Javier Castruita. The leg was bruised and grossly discolored, Castruita's reward for the hard penalty he drew during Boulder's quarterfinal round win against Rock Canyon, which Castruita promptly converted into a penalty kick that accounted for the Panthers' only goal in a 1-0 win.
Kalisher showed off the image not to specifically laud Castruita's grit -- the midfielder's play during the postseason has spoken for itself -- but to use it as an example of the heart and dedication his club has displayed throughout the season.
That spirit has carried Boulder into uncharted territory, a journey the Panthers hope will end with the first boys soccer state championship in school history. Sixth-seeded Boulder (13-6) will take on fourth-seeded Smoky Hill (15-1-3) for the 5A title at 4 p.m. Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"Our theme is 'La Familia' and we play with the pride of a family," Kalisher said. "The secret to Boulder High this season is love and respect for each other. That's why we're here. I say this humbly that when the playoffs started, these guys had no doubt in their mind that they'd be playing in the final. They believe in themselves and there is tremendous leadership on this team."
Boulder's close-knit lineup and team-first attitude has propelled the Panthers during a remarkable run. After going 2-5 to start the season while going up against state powers such as Heritage, Cherry Creek, Mullen, and Denver East, Boulder has reeled off wins in 11 of 12 matches, many of them in dramatic fashion.
The Panthers have scored the winning goal in the final minute of four different contests, including Mason Douillard's winning tally with 46.5 seconds remaining against Chatfield in the second round of the state tournament. They have won five games by a 1-0 count, including their past two state tournament victories. And the Panthers' most recent victory illustrated all of these traits at once, as Boulder outlasted cross-town rival Fairview for a 1-0 win in the state semifinals on Castruita's overtime goal.
"It's been 32 years in the making and we're not done," Kalisher said. "There is a perception that we're all about playing at Recht. The truth is we like big space as much as anybody. It allows us to play our game. We've been in that position how many times now where we need that one goal? And Javier calmly placed it in the goal with technique, which is what we preach at Boulder."
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Below, check out video of the Panthers' game-winning goal over Fairview in overtime of Wednesday's state semifinals. Video courtesy of Boulder head coach Hardy Kalisher.