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Boys soccer: Boulder the latest victim of Cherry Creek’s playoff surge

Bruins defeat Panthers in overtime in Class 5A quarterfinals

With their season and third trip to the Class 5A state semifinals on the line, the Boulder Panthers battled through 89 minutes of scoreless soccer against Cherry Creek on Saturday night at Recht Field.

But halfway through the first overtime of the quarterfinal contest, following a scoreless two periods of regulation, Cherry Creek’s Macklin Riley scored off a throw-in to send the 16-seeded Bruins, who knocked off top seed Regis Jesuit in the first round, to the semifinals.

Cherry Creek (8-4) will face Grandview on Wednesday at Englewood High School. Boulder, the No. 9 seed, ended its season at 8-3-1.

“The golden goal in overtime is the cruelest moment in sports as far as I’m concerned,” Boulder head coach Hardy Kalisher said. “It’s always a joy to be on the winning side. We have been on the winning side plenty.”

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Panthers, and the overtime goal was the first they had given up since their eighth game of the season.

“I am incredibly proud of this team,” Kalisher said. “You want to be playing your best form in the playoffs. This team played its best soccer game tonight and I would say one of the finest we have played in a losing effort.”

Both teams had chances before overtime to get on the scoreboard and avoid the extra time.

With time winding down in regulation, both teams fought furiously for the goal that would send them to the semifinals. With two minutes left, the Panthers had a good shot saved by Bruins goalkeeper Knox Quarles. Even early in overtime, the Panthers had a chance when Arroll Taekla directed a free kick from the 17-yard line right at Quarles, but the keeper made the save.

Then, with about six minutes left on the clock, Riley got his foot on the ball off a throw-in and sent it past Boulder goalkeeper Evan Sims for the game winner.

“For most of the game, we played a very composed, confident soccer game,” Kalisher said. “We put the throttle against Cherry Creek that whole game. It just didn’t go in for us. If you let a team with that effort from their team hang around, they get you at the end.”

For the first 40 minutes, the teams looked as evenly matched as one would expect from two of only eight teams remaining in the playoffs as they battled to a stalemate at halftime.

Each team had some good looks and both teams’ goalkeepers made some saves in the opening period. Boulder spent a little more time in attack mode than Cherry Creek.

Cherry Creek almost scored the game’s first goal in the 24th minute, but a shot from five yards out sailed over the net. Two minutes later, the Panthers had their best shot in the first half to break through with a goal when Cameron Gerber stared down the Bruins goalkeeper from the 5-yard line, but Cherry Creek made the save.

The Bruins tried to beat the first half buzzer with a corner kick but couldn’t convert as the ball scooted across the front of the net as time expired.