BOULDER — Lake Brant’s play on the soccer pitch on Thursday night shined brighter than any of the candles on his birthday cake.
Facing cross-town rival Fairview on the road, the Boulder High senior came through in a big way for a Panthers squad in need of a signature victory after a rough first half of the season.
Brant scored 12 minutes into the match to give the Panthers the early lead on their way to a 2-0 upset win over the Class 5A third-ranked Knights.
“That’s the best birthday gift he’s going to get, senior year scoring that goal (against Fairview),” Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said.
Boulder (4-5-0, 3-1-0 Front Range League) beat Fairview for the third time in the last four meetings, including a state quarterfinal showdown in 2010.
But perhaps more important is the potential morale boost for the Panthers after finally breaking through against a top-tier opponent. Three of their losses had come against teams currently ranked among the top five in the Denver Post coaches poll — No. 2 Denver East, No. 4 Cherry Creek and No. 5 Heritage.
“It means everything to come out here and beat your rival,” Brant said. “We’ve been playing well. We just put it all together today. I think we outworked them.”
Fairview leading goal scorer Nick Porter broke free for a wide open one-on-one with Boulder goalkeeper Henry Huettel early in the game. But Huettel stuffed the close-range shot, and the Panthers had Porter and fellow striker Eric Kronenberg on lockdown the rest of the way.
With the BHS defense packing it in, Panthers junior Javier Castruita found Brant in the open field on a counter just two minutes after Porter’s attempt. And Brant fired past a defender to bank home the first goal of the game off the far post.
“I just found my way in behind a great ball from Javy,” Brant said. “Definitely you could tell shift in momentum (the goal gave BHS).”
Sushant Gurung added an insurance goal for Boulder in the 59th minute, sneaking the ball past FHS keeper Alan Schuererman. The goal was the third in the last two games for Gurung, who was later ejected for drawing his second yellow card of the game.
Castruita was credited with assists on both Boulder goals.
The Panthers mainly just had to hold on after the second goal, though not without some tense moments, especially after they went a man down.
Fairview’s Jack Mayfield fired a rocket off the left post in the 68th minute. That was followed by a shot cleared by a defender and then a good look from Kronenberg that sailed just over the crossbar.
But that was the last solid chance the Knights (6-2-0, 2-1-0) generated.
“Defensively they were super organized,” Kronenberg said. “That was the key to the game. They just out-defended us. They shut us down all over the field.”
Huettel said the Panthers had every intention of packing in the defense and picking their chances to attack wisely.
“With their speed it was definitely all about how we controlled them,” Huettel said of the Knights’ dangerous front line.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Fairview, which hadn’t been scored upon since a Sept. 15 victory over Lincoln.
“We weren’t very composed,” FHS coach Stan Jozwiak said. “I think that (first) goal they scored rattled us and we need to do some growing up out of this match.”
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Boulder 2, Fairview 0
At Fairview H.S.
Boulder (4-5-0, 3-1-0) 1 1 — 2
Fairview (6-2-0, 2-1-0) 0 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Boulder: Lake Brant (Javier Castruita), 12th minute; Sushant Gurung (Javier Castruita), 59th minute.
Goalkeepers (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Boulder: Huettel (80-0-5); Schuererman (80-2-2).