BOULDER -- It was a conversation no coach wants to have with one of his most popular players, let alone a senior captain.
Yet it was a conversation Boulder boys soccer coach Hardy Kalisher nonetheless felt compelled to share with senior Lake Brant at the outset of the season.
Although Brant had diligently worked his way up the food chain in the Panthers' program, and even though he was tabbed as one of Boulder's co-captains, Kalisher was forced to tell Brant that the senior probably was not going to play a prominent role for the 2012 Panthers. Brant had not secured a position along Boulder's back defensive line, a role he'd been trying out for. And, while the team still was seeking a striker to rely upon at the top of the formation, Brant did not appear to be the answer to that problem.
That conversation and subsequent diminished role for Brant not only seems like ancient history now, but some sort of fabrication. After emerging as the most dangerous scorer for the eventual Class 5A state champions, Brant put together a scoring surge during the second half of the season that led first to a state title, and now to the honor of being named the BoCoPreps.com Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
"He scored the most important goals and had the most important assists that Boulder High has ever had," Kalisher said. "He was almost teary-eyed after tryouts because I told him, 'You're a co-captain and you made the varsity team, but can you be a co-captain who may not play a minute in the season?' That was the honest truth.
"He became a young man and said, 'Here's the position I'm going to play' and just took over the striker role. It gives me chills to think about it."
After playing sparingly during the 2-5 start Boulder endured against a difficult early slate, the swift development of Brant's scoring touch coincided with the Panthers' run of 12 wins in 13 games that ended with a 3-1 win against Smoky Hill in the state title game -- a triumph that saw Brant score two second-half goals within a span of 2 minutes, 23 seconds to put the game away. And that was after he had incurred a cut to his mouth during the first half that later required six stitches to close.
That effort proved to be the exclamation point on a season in which Brant posted nine goals and five assists, almost all of which he produced when Boulder was in need of a spark.
Brant recorded a goal or an assist in nine of Boulder's final 12 games, a stretch that included three goals and two assists during the state tournament. Brant supplied the winning goal against Fairview during the regular season and notched the winning assist on Javier Castruita's overtime goal in a rematch against the Knights in the Class 5A semifinals.
Brant scored the first goal in 2-1 win against Fossil Ridge that ultimately allowed the Panthers to receive the top seed out of the Front Range League. Loveland was undefeated and unscored upon until a Brant goal lifted Boulder to a 1-0 win in league play. And Brant also supplied one of several last-minute highlights for Boulder this season by scoring the winning goal with 9 seconds remaining against Mountain Range, leading to a victory that secured the FRL crown for the Panthers.
"I think I just realized I could score against these teams, and the team really came together from there," Brant said. "Getting the first goal against Monarch really helped get my confidence going. As a team, we never gave up and we never put our heads down. I think it was against Fort Collins when we really figured out what we could do offensively. We saw what we could do and we just kept playing that way."
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