Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Andy Cross / THE DENVER POST
BROOMFIELD — There must be something in the water in Broomfield.
To date, the five schools that call Broomfield home — Broomfield, Legacy, Holy Family, Jefferson Academy and Prospect Ridge — are a combined 20-0-2 on the pitch in the first three weeks of the season and have combined to outscore their opponents 94-3.
So what gives?
The area has always had the talent, and as watered down as it may seem with the number of schools in the area competing for players as well as the looming presence of the development academies, the play is good — if not great — across the board.
First and foremost the coaches in the area were not shy about giving credit to the clubs in the area — from Broomfield Soccer Club, St. Vrain Soccer Club and FC Boulder just to name a few — that have prepared their players with dynamic skill sets to be ready to showcase them on the high school level.
“Everything is happening in the club realm as far as preparing kids for our programs,” said Broomfield coach Jim Davidson, whose Eagles are off to a 3-0 start, having won those matches by a combined 21-0 margin, and are ranked No. 2 in Class 5A.
“We benefit immensely, especially on the girls side, from the Broomfield Blast. They have made great strides in all phases of their program — from player development to increasing their exposure in more competitive tournament and college showcase play.”
The key for most high school coaches is learning how to blend their own style of play with their current roster of kids that are coming from upwards of six or seven different clubs around the area.
“That’s always a challenge to get them on the same page,” Davidson said.
But for the flagship program in the city, Broomfield, establishing a culture was imperative at the beginning of Davidson’s tenure with both the boys and girls programs in the late 1990’s
Neither the boys or the girls programs had tasted success in the playoffs and the deepest run either had made was to the 4A state quarterfinals.
But to steal a line from the movie Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come,” rings true in this case. Once the Eagles started to taste success, the players began to take notice and, while it wasn’t overnight, the cultural groundwork was in place for the future of the program that really hasn’t seen a drop off since.
“It was all about establishing that competitive culture,” Davidson recalls.
And at a program like Legacy, the process has been a lot more swift, especially over the last few seasons.
Coach Luke Meadows’ program doesn’t have the open enrollment benefit that some of the other school in the area benefit from and “attracting” players to the program requires a little more patience.
“Building a program at the high school level isn’t nearly the same as what people might think. You can’t recruit. You can’t pick and choose the type of players you want. So building a program is just simply about building a culture,” said Meadows, whose team currently sits at No. 3 in the CHSSANow.com Class 5A rankings with a 6-0 record and a 25-1 goal differential.
“I think we are at a point where we found a nice harmony in terms of what the kids are able to expect, combined with a style of play that is different from what most of the kids are used to playing. Because we have so many feeder clubs that helped push kids towards Legacy, we have to be very specific about how we teach the style of play we do.”
And Meadows, who is on staff with FC Boulder, also praised the resurgence of the local clubs and the benefit his players have gained from their experiences.
The best example of a establishing a culture on the fly might be at Holy Family.
For years the Tigers were mired in mediocrity, playing well during the regular season, only to suffer an early exit in the playoffs with a style of play that focused more on the counter attack than it did possession and going to goal.
But with a new coach, Michelle Griego-Giron, and an influx of uber-talented freshmen, the Tigers have begun to open some eyes around the state with their 3-0-1 start to the season. They have quality wins over Peak to Peak (last year’s Class 3A runner up and current No. 7) and Wheat Ridge (No. 6 in 4A) as well as a draw against perennial power Lewis-Palmer — a game they tell you they should have won after three goals were called back.
“I think for us, we’ve made (playing varsity soccer) mean something again and they have always had a lot of talent here, it was just a matter of letting the girls know up front what the expectations were, the goals were and setting that from the get-go,” said Griego-Giron, who inherited a 7-9 program from 2017. “We are under the radar right now and people aren’t expecting us, so to come out and do what we are doing is a little unexpected for this group.”
Coach Denise Sutton has seemingly had the Midas Touch wherever she has gone, first at Arvada’s Faith Christian and, in recent years, with Jefferson Academy.
And this year has been no different. The No. 2-ranked Jaguars are off to a 4-0-1 start that includes a 3-2 result last week against the defending champs from nearby The Academy.
For Sutton, there really is no “secret to success,” rather she puts it on her players and holds them to a certain level of accountability to what the bring to the program both in training sessions as well as games.
“We’ve got a lot of talent coming into the program at JA and we are just trying to encourage them and push them to continue their quest of playing collegiately if that is what they want to do,” said Sutton, whose team also went on the road and scored a 1-0 win at No. 5 Mantiou Springs. “We want to be a support system for them and we have enough talent that they mix together really well.
“We focus a lot on team bonding and we are thoughtful in that process that we want them to have a lot of fun together and enjoy this time together in high school and success comes out of that. If we enjoy each other, then we will play for each other.”
The process is just beginning at Prospect Ridge for coach Todd Schoeder, whose program is in its second varsity season.
The Miners, who went 6-9 last season in the rough-and-tumble 3A Metropolitan League, are ranked No. 9 and are off to a 4-0 start (with a 20-0 goal differential), doing so with only four seniors on their current roster.
And as for the controversial Development Academy programs that have taken some heat across the state for their stance on not letting their players play both for them and their high school teams, it has had its affect, but not nearly to the amount it has other teams on the south Metro side of Denver.
In fact, two of the city’s best players — Broomfield’s Hailey Stodden and Legacy’s Gracie Armstrong — spurned the DA’s and opted to play with their schools.
Said Davidson about Stodden, the reigning BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year: “Here is a kid that has decided to reject the DA going into her senior year and who also had a chance to stay abroad and train with the U20 (national team) preparing for the World Cup and decided that finishing her high school career was more important. That’s pretty incredible.”
Stodden gets it. And while she understands the thrill that comes with being a part of the national team, it will still be there on an even grander scale when and while she is playing Pac-12 competition over the next few years at the University of Utah.
Said Meadows, who did lose two players to the DA: “I think for kids who have the opportunity, it puts them in a unique bind, something that I don’t think is fair to do to the kid who hardly knows what they’re having for lunch that day. But we, as a program, will continue to build upon a strong base of kids from local clubs and selfishly, I’m not going to complain when we have kids who will constantly be competitive on an annual basis.”