The proceeds from Thursday's match between the Boulder and Fairview soccer clubs went to benefit the Boulder County Food Share, but there was nothing charitable about the action on the pitch.
Neither team was willing to give an inch during the game, and in the end it was defending champion and top-ranked Boulder that ran it's winning streak to 24 games with a 2-1 victory over fourth-ranked Fairview on the Knights home turf.
"It feels really special," Boulder junior Daniel Zapatero said about beating Fairview.
The game had the look of something special from the opening kick. Although it was a nonleague contest (the two teams will face each other again on Oct. 21 in a game that counts towards the Front Range League title), the contest felt more like a postseason match between two heated rivals, complete with raucous student section and the requisite streaker or two.
The Knights (2-1) controlled the possession early, while the Panthers (4-0) were content to counter with explosive bursts of offense, often spearheaded by Nick McCabe and Omar Castruita.
While Boulder was content with this style of counter attack, it allowed Fairview to tilt the field in its favor. And the Knights took advantage, getting a spectacular spinning goal from 25 yards out Austin Dahl in the 35th minute that was set up by Sajji Singh.
Despite being down to the last team that beat them (in the quarterfinals of the 2015 state tournament), the Panthers never panicked. They almost got the equalizer before the intermission, and then did even it up in the 48th minute on laser from Zapatero that was hit so hard it zipped through the back of the net.
"The ball was just right there and I shot it," Zapatero said. "It was a really special goal, full of excitement.
"That's the first goal I've ever scored that did that (go through the net)."
Zapatero's goal seemed to settle the champs, and although Fairview matched them for the most part.
Boulder got the game winner in the 73rd minute after Fabian Valencia was taken down by a Knights defender just outside the penalty box to the left of the goal. Omar Castruita took the direct kick and snuck it just inside the near post for the game-winner.
Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said he trusted his team and the Panthers system would come through, even after falling behind a quality opponent.
"There's guys on the team that has the experience of what it takes to be champion," Kalisher said. "That's trusting that you can compete throughout the whole game. I think that's where experience really came in."
Fairview coach Jeff Frykholm agreed.
"They've got a little mystique to them," Frykholm said of the champs. "They answered at half time, they came right out and that's what a program with a great tradition has. They've got a little something extra and they're used to winning matches obviously.
"There's a belief they had tonight, and kudos to them, and maybe that's something we need to develop ourselves. A little stronger belief in who we are and we need to be able to close out a game like that."
Fairview returns to the pitch next Thursday with a game at Poudre. Boulder continues it's gauntlet to start the season the same night at No. 8 Fort Collins.
"We're excited about Fort Collins," said Kalisher, whose team has already beaten No. 2 Broomfield and perennial powers Heritage and Mountain Vista. "Fort Collins is one of the strongest teams in the state, and we'll do another match against a quality team."
John Rosa: 303-473-1315, email@example.com
Boulder 2, Fairview 1
At FairviewBoulder (4-0)02—2Fairview (2-1)10—1
Goals (assists) —Fairview: Austin Dahl (Sajji Singh), 35th minute; Boulder: Daniel Zapatero, 48th minute; Boulder: Omar Castruita, 73rd minute.