Through three rounds of the postseason, Boulder has found solace in its predictable unpredictability.
Narrowing down “the guy” for the Panthers — eh, not so easy. Depends on the game, half, or single moment.
Keeper Toby Bateman took his turn in the spotlight for the Panthers with two saves in penalties in a quarterfinals win over Fort Collins on Saturday. The sophomore keeper paused after clinching the win with a marvelous deny.
His coach said he didn’t start celebrating until he looked up and saw his team charging him.
“He kind of pauses and then he’s like, ‘Oh we won’,” Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher chuckled.
Bateman joins a long line of clutch performers for Boulder this postseason. Jesse Bacardi scored twice in a Round 1 win over No. 31 Chaparral and added another in a nail-biting win over the Lambkins. Sam Phillips and Kenneth Jew were a one-two punch scoring tandem in the first half in a win over Pine Creek in Round 2. Micah Blackburn has stepped up time and again from the backline, and the list goes on and on.
“We play for each other and everybody is stepping up for one another,” Bacardi said.
And soon, 2017 BoCoPreps.com Player of the Year Omar Castruita could join that list. Arguably the state’s best playmaker, Castruita is expected to rejoin his team in the semifinals after missing the last eight games with a hamstring injury.
“He elevates everybody,” Kalisher said. “It’s not just that he’s a good player, the players around him get better as well. He creates opportunities that other players at his age just don’t see. He assists the ‘assister’ just as much, and he’s our all-time leading assist-getter and our all-time leading goal-scorer.”
Castruita was the only player in the state invited to the High School All-American Game in Orlando, Florida this December. Forty of the best seniors from across the nation were selected.
“I was surprised getting the honor this year since I missed a lot of games,” Castruita said. “But getting that All-American award means a lot to me and means a lot to my family.”
Another state title may be even sweeter for Castruita, who was commended by his coach for keeping his team first during his injury. The Panthers, in the semifinals for the sixth time in nine years, will face No. 3 Grandview on Wednesday.
Stay tuned to see who the team’s next hero will be.
No. 3 Grandview vs. No. 2 Boulder
Details: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at EchoPark Stadium
What to know: Grandview (16-1-1) has won eight straight — its latest coming in penalties to advance over Cherokee Trail in the quarterfinals. Boulder (17-1) has won nine straight — its quarterfinal also coming down to penalties. With a win, the Panthers return to the title game for the first time since 2016 when they won it all with a closing record of 20-0.
Who to watch: Castruita, of course. He’s back. The Panthers have remained one of the strongest teams in the state despite being without Castruita for nearly half of the season. The All-American should add another layer to a team of top talent that prides itself on strong team cohesion.
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew