BOULDER — Some of Mitchell Graesser's family members moved to Seattle at the beginning of August, but his mom, brother and sister made a special trip back to Colorado for the Boulder boys soccer team's senior night game against rival Broomfield.
Graesser played his heart out on this memorable night in front of his mom and 12-year-old twin siblings, scoring the first goal of the match and helping his undefeated, Class 5A No. 1-ranked Panthers to a 2-1 victory and Front Range League title over No. 3 Broomfield on Thursday night at Christian Recht Field.
Both teams were undefeated in league play coming into this top-10 matchup for the title. Boulder improved to 15-0 overall and finished 12-0 in league on a game-winning goal from junior Nick McCabe. The Eagles are now at a 12-2-1 overall mark and ended the season 9-1-1 in league.
"We have a lot of new faces on the varsity team, but they all buy into a great tradition of playing for the love of each other and being inspired to work hard because of fellow teammates. On senior night that gets elevated," Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said.
He added: "Mitchell is the only remaining player from our last league title and has been a varsity starter since his sophomore year."
Graesser, the team's most experienced varsity player and team captain, scored his second goal of the season in the 32nd minute on an assist from sophomore Omar Castruita — a team-high 13th assist for the forward.
"My mom wanted to fly in for my senior night and it just meant something a little extra special to go out there and score a goal tonight," Graesser said. "Not only for my family, but for this team - la familia - it's just unbelievable and something special. I'm holding back tears."
Broomfield senior Ethan Campbell slotted a goal in the right corner of the net in the 51st minute, only to have McCabe answer back in the 53rd minute, sealing the 2-1 win for the Panthers.
Boulder started the game out connecting well on passes and moving the ball around. The Panthers had definite home field advantage on the unique East-West facing and narrow Recht Field — one of the oldest stadiums in Colorado.
"Boulder's had an exceptional season and is obviously very good on their home field," Broomfield coach Jim Davidson said. "We're playing on a postage stamp-sized field. It's always hard and they have a great advantage on this field — it's 55 yards wide. Every team that comes here has to adjust."
He added: "You have two very tactical teams that really want to possess the ball and you can't do that very well on this narrow field."
Both teams were extremely tough on defense, and Broomfield maintained intensity in front of the goal throughout the entire match. The Eagles were mostly on the defensive side of the ball in the entire first half.
"It was a game against the most well-coached team," Kalish said. "They're so well prepared, organized and a very hard-working team. We knew it would take more than one goal to win tonight."