• Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Daniel Zapatero, left, of Boulder, and Fernando Beltran, of Fort Collins, battle for control of the ball. Go to BoCoPreps.com for more photos.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Boulder's Sam Phillips, No. 11, jumps into the arms of Jesse Bacardi after Bacardi scored a goal in Thursday's game with visiting Fort Collins. Go to BoCoPreps.com for more photos.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Boulder's Jesse Bacardi keeps the ball away from Jack Chunko of Fort Collins during Thursday's Front Range League showdown. Go to BoCoPreps.com for more photos.



BOULDER — The Boulder boys soccer team is simply ready to plow a new field.

After a rigorous pre-season schedule that saw the Panthers play good halves against four quality opponents — enough to net them an unblemished record so far and the No. 1 ranking in the state — the Front Range League slate is fertile soil for growing a strong RPI rating.

That schedule started Thursday night as BHS hosted Fort Collins, and Recht Field saw no lack of intensity or desire by either team to get that portion off on the right foot. But a Boulder goal just 40 seconds in gave the Panthers the jolt they needed to eventually build a 3-1 lead, and Hardy Kalisher’s squad managed to cling to victory, 3-2, over the pressuring Lambkins.

Omar Castruita scored two goals, and Jesse Bacardi also scored for Boulder as they pleased their hostile home crowd with a good performance over Class 5A’s No. 4 ranked Fort Collins (2-1-1).

“I’ve been hearing around that Fort Collins were the favorites to win state this year, and last year we tied them on their grass field which I left pretty disappointed from,” Castruita said, his goals coming in the 28th and 59th minutes of the heated contest. “They were going to come out hard, but I knew we were going to come out harder. That’s what happened.”

“This was a good one to learn from because there were a lot of distractions, yet the boys came out and did what they were supposed to do and that’s just play soccer,” said Kalisher, whose team will be at Broomfield on Monday.

Neither team wasted a lot of time through the midfield, as both pushed the pace to afford themselves as many opportunities to put the ball into the attacking zone as possible.

For Boulder, that quick-to-establish-a-lead mindset shone through off the opening kickoff. Castruita was at the front of a push that led to a cross from Sam Phillips to Bacardi before most of the crowd had even settled in, giving BHS a 1-0 lead.

Fort Collins wasn’t buried, however, as the Lambkins counter-attack began to give Boulder fits. In the 20th minute off its first corner kick chance, Fernando Beltran sent the ball to the near post where a crashing Derek Schlagel chest-bumped the ball past goalie Toby Bateman and knot the game 1-1.

Castruita still found the net despite being a focal point of the Fort Collins defense, and it was his crafty score in the second half that gave Boulder the game’s first two-score cushion.

After a throw-in deep on the far side of the benches and to the corner, Castruita emerged with the ball and ran left-to-right parallel with the goal. Using the space he was given, Castruita made Fort Collins pay for not stepping in the line of attack, and a right-footed rocket made it 3-1.

Fort Collins’s Anthony Priest made things interesting again with a slick drive through Boulder’s defenses with 11 minutes to go, and the counter-attacks from both teams continued, but the Lambkins could not find the late equalizer and Bateman was good for one last save on a hard, high shot that was intended for just under the bar with about four minutes left.

“We had the lead and we made some good tactical adjustments, and with the great goals we did get it was just a good win,” Kalisher said. “That’s the kind of win we want.”

“I think we’re a second-half team, but we need to come out working to get more goals in the first half,” Castruita said. “That third one … defenders focus so much on my left foot they forget I have another one. I can still shoot with it, they slept on me and I punished them for that.”

Fabian Valencia assisted on Castruita’s first goal. and Bacardi’s marker was his team-leading seventh of the season.

Adam Dunivan: dunivana@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/AdamDunivan24

Boulder 3, Fort Collins 2

At Recht Field

Fort Collins (2-1-1, 0-1)11—2

Boulder (5-0, 1-0)21—3

Goals (assists) — Boulder: Jesse Bacardi (Sam Phillips assist) 1st minute; Fort Collins: Derek Schlagel (Fernando Beltran) 20th; Boulder: Omar Castruita (Fabian Valencia), 28th; Boulder: Castruita (unassisted), 59th; Fort Collins: Anthony Priest (unassisted), 69th.

Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Fort Collins: Mason Gilbert (80-3-3); Boulder: Toby Batemen (80-2-4).