COMMERCE CITY — Love and effort will have to do for the Boulder boys soccer team in 2014.
But for Hardy Kalisher and the Panthers, that is irreplaceable.
All season long, the Panthers have clinged to that mantra, and it helped Boulder string together 18 straight games without a defeat from a team that wasn’t supposed to be as talented as the 2013 version, nor the 2012 state championship team.
There they were, though, Saturday afternoon warming up at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for the 5A championship game against fellow Front Range League foe Broomfield. A newcomer to the big-school scene, the Eagles still carried with them a long-standing winning tradition under head coach Jim Davidson.
After the Eagles ran off the field with a 2-0 victory for Davidson’s fifth title with the boys team, Kalisher made sure to congratulate each and every one of his players individually before gathering them together for the postgame talk.
“These guys make coaching my dream job,” Kalisher said.
Starting from the coach, the brotherhood spread among the team.
“I’m happy and sad at the same time, because I got to go, as a senior, as long as possible with this team,” said Quinn Liebmann, who will be graduating from Boulder in December to pursue soccer at Old Dominion. “I would have liked to have a win, but you can’t ask for much more when you have what we have.”
“The first year I was with this team, I just thought it was just another team,” added an emotional Brian Castruita. “But we went on this amazing run to the championship, and that’s when I realized this was about more than playing soccer. It was about making bonds with teammates. We’ve always played for each other since the beginning, and some people may not have believed what we could do. We got here through that love and effort.”
The Panthers defense on Saturday was stingy, and Boulder had more scoring opportunities throughout the course of the game. They had 15 corner kicks and plenty of set piece chances that were denied by Broomfield goalie Michael Genge and his supporting cast.
They just never touched the twine. After a very defensive-oriented first half that resulted in a scoreless 40 minutes, Castruita had a chance in the run of play just about 1 minute into the second half that came up wide right. With 15 minutes left, Boulder’s pressure was constantly forcing Genge and his teammates to be on their toes.
By then, damage had been done on the other side of the field. Broomfield’s ever-dangerous Porter Milner scored on a penalty kick after Aidan Longhurst’s tackle of Armando Ocampo in the box in the 45th minute, and Milner made another patented flip throw in the 55th minute that was deflected in by a Boulder defender.
“It wasn’t our day, and the goals they scored on us were mental mistakes by us,” said Castruita. “I was a part of that group (defending the flip-throw) and I think it went off one of my teammate’s heads and in. Just bad luck.”
The Eagles and Panthers had battled in the summer and then again in the regular season, and both of those times the Panthers emerged the victors. Davidson even told his kids after the summer game at a camp at Denver University, “I believe we just lost to the best team in the state.”
Broomfield, by outscoring opponents 13-1 in the playoffs, proved they were this season’s best when it counted. And this could be the first of many meetings deep in the playoffs between the two teams.
Dreams may have been dashed on Saturday. Boulder had 10 seniors and will likely return 14 juniors and a sophomore. Kalisher fully believes his teams build bonds that won’t fade, no matter the result of one game over a 20-game season.
“We defended well all year, and we knew Broomfield had some good ideas on how to play us,” Kalisher said. “It doesn’t take away from one of the best seasons we’ve ever had.
“They played the way we want our program to be about. These guys will never forget this season. They’ll be close and they’ll have a special connection the rest of their lives.”
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BROOMFIELD 2, BOULDER 0
At Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
Broomfield (13-4-3) 0 2 — 2
Boulder (15-2-3) 0 0 — 0
Goals (assists) — Broomfield: Porter Milner (penalty kick), 45th minute; Broomfield: Boulder own goal, 55th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Broomfield: Michael Genge (80-0-7); Boulder: Leo Huettel (80-2-2).