AURORA — Some fairy tales have a very unhappy ending.
The Boulder Panthers were more than thrilled to have the chance to be the bad guy on Wednesday night against Class 5A tournament darling and 30th-seeded Fossil Ridge SaberCats at Legacy Stadium.
And for over an hour of game time, the script was playing out just the way Cinderella would have liked.
But eventually the clock struck midnight on Fossil's season and Boulder returns to the title game after a one-year hiatus with a 3-1 victory and a chance at redemption against Broomfield on Saturday afternoon at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
"I am surprised by the effort they put out," said Panthers sophomore goalie Djibril Doumbia, whose team beat Fossil 4-1 during the regular season. "We knew they were going to come out hard, but they really brought that extra little bit of umph to it that really messed with us a little bit."
Doumbia was put to the test early on by a Fossil Ridge team that was clearly playing with nothing to lose. In the 15th minute, Tyler Hause's shot from close range forced Doumbia to make the first, but not the best, of his five saves.
Boulder broke through in the 39th minute on Simon Julien's talley that was assisted by Nick McCabe.
"Simon doesn't get enough credit," Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said. "That goal set the tone for us."
Early in the second half, Boulder's Quinn Frankovsky — who has been the steady and calming force of the Panthers' backline — was whistled for taking down Blair Durand in the box.
It set up a Grant Martinez penalty kick that Doumbia would turn away with a save moving to his right.
"For me, I just have to get big and have my hands out ready and try to get in his mind a little bit," Doumbia said. "Then backing up slowly, kind of intimidating was also a key part of it."
The Sabercats would eventually find their equalizer in the 55th minute on a corner kick that was finished off by sophomore Cameron Viola — who was only on the pitch because Fossil's best player, Jaime Soto, was red-carded in the quarterfinal win at Arapahoe and forced to sit.
The Panthers didn't blink.
They got control of the game, especially in the midfield and dominated possession in the final 15 minutes, turning to their sophomore sensation Omar Castruita when they needed him most.
He scored the game winner in the 67th minute and then shattered the glass slipper with a lethal finish in the 73rd.
"It was getting frustrating because it is always hard playing against a team that parks the bus and plays counter attack," Castruita said. "We just broke them down and won it."
Boulder (19-0) beat Broomfield 2-1 in the regular season finale at Recht Field in a match that could have gone either way. It's a match that Castruita and his team welcomes.
"We wanted to play Broomfield again in the final," Castruita said. "And I'm looking forward to playing them again."
BOULDER 3, FOSSIL RIDGE 1
At Legacy StadiumFossil Ridge (8-10) 0 1 — 1
Boulder (19-0) 1 2 — 3
Goals (assists) — Boulder: Simon Julien (Nick McCabe), 39th; Fossil Ridge: Cameron Viola (Grant Martinez), 55th; Boulder: Omar Castruita (unassisted), 67th; Castruita (Trey Pace), 73rd.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fossil Ridge: Logan Wette (80-3-2); Boulder: Djibril Doumbia (80-1-5).