BOULDER — Despite an inauspicious beginning to its 2014 campaign, the Boulder soccer team certainly seems to have found its proper form as the year has progressed. After a 1-1-2 start, the Panthers reeled off 10 wins in 11 matches to complete the regular season, taking a Front Range League title in the process and earning a No. 3 seed in the Class 5A state tournament.
The Panthers’ reward for their impressive showing down the stretch? A first-round meeting with Adams City out of the Eastern Metro Athletic Conference. And while BHS was certainly favored at home against the state’s 30th seed and the EMAC’s fifth-place finisher, those in the know anticipated a highly-competitive affair. The Eagles scored twice as many goals as they allowed this season and hadn’t lost a match by more than one goal all year while collecting 10 wins.
Indeed, the matchup proved to be as entertaining as anyone could have hoped for, maybe more so than much of the Boulder faithful would have liked. But despite spotting Adams City an early lead, the Panthers were able to rally and capture a 2-1 win thanks to a second-half goal by the team’s leading scorer, junior Leroy Alphonse.
“I had 100 percent confidence that Adams City didn’t get any respect with the seeding and that they would be a high quality 30 seed,” Boulder head coach Hardy Kalisher said. “We weren’t surprised by how good an opponent that was.”
After playing to a 1-1 draw in a physical first half, intermission seemed to settle the two sides down. Both defenses appeared locked in throughout the second half, allowing their opponents only a precious few chances. But it ended up being all for naught for Adams City, as a single blunder did them in.
With possession and little pressure from the Panthers, an Eagle defender attempted to drop the ball back to his keeper, Ricardo Chavez, in the 63rd minute. However, the back failed to put enough pace on the ball, and Alphonse raced from a distance to intercept the pass. The striker beat Chavez to it, then took a touch past the keeper before depositing a shot into the net for the game-winner.
The goal marked Alphonse’s eighth on the year, and sealed his squad’s spot in the round of 16 against Front Range League rival Poudre.
“It was just on the last defender, I saw him play the ball back and it was not going fast enough for the keeper to get it,” Alphonse said. “I just ran as fast as I could.”
The Boulder victory certainly seemed in doubt early on, as Adams City wasted no time letting its hosts know it was not to be taken lightly. Senior striker Adrian Morales reached a ball bouncing in the box eight-yards out and sent a volley past Boulder keeper Leo Huettel less than 3 minutes into the match to take the early lead and stun the crowd. The goal marked the first score the Panthers had allowed since Sept. 30, as Boulder had posted five consecutive shutouts since a 2-1 win over Broomfield.
The goal energized AC and its following, and the Eagles controlled much of the match for the ensuing 15 minutes. Fortunately for Boulder, Quinn Liebmann was able to restore order in the 19th minute. The senior midfielder took a free kick from the middle of the pitch, 35 yards out, and sent a shot bouncing just in front and to the right of Chavez that found the net for the equalizer.
“This team has a lot of character … lot of teams would have imploded, but they stuck with it,” Kalisher said. “Ton of credit to Quinn Liebmann who put a world class free kick in, and same thing on that individual effort from Leroy to press, was tremendous.”
The Panthers advance to take on Poudre on Wednesday, as the 19th-seeded Impalas knocked off Heritage 1-0 in their first round test. Boulder and Poudre played to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 16.
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Boulder 2, Adams City 1
At Recht Field
Adams City (10-5-1) 1 0 — 1
Boulder (12-1-3) 1 1 — 2
Goals (assists) — Adams City: Adrian Morales, 3rd minute; Boulder: Quinn Liebmann, 19th minute; Boulder: Leroy Alphonse, 63rd minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Adams City: Ricardo Chavez (80-2-5); Boulder: Leo Huettel (80-1-3).