BOULDER — Boulder's Blaise Werner sunk the dagger into Grandview with his 70th minute goal.
The goal, assisted by Omar Castruita, gave Boulder a 2-0 win in the quarterfinals of the Class 5A boys soccer state tournament. Castruita outran a Grandview defender to win a through ball and found Werner wide open with a 2-on-1 opportunity.
“I can’t describe this feeling man. We’re just focusing one game at a time,” Castruita said. "We knew that Grandview is a really athletic and physical team, but we knew that they weren’t going to match our hard effort and love for each other.”
Boulder high started strong with its chances right away. In the second minute, Trey Pace saw a beautiful through ball lobbed over his head and took it in on goal. Pace chipped it over the head of Eddie St. Martin, but saw the ball bounce wide of the net for a goal kick.
After numerous chances including a header off the crossbar, the Panthers finally saw a chance netted with Castruita’s goal in the 19th minute. Castruita settled the ball near the right post and took his shot, finding the back of the net far side.
Grandview’s best chance came in the 37th minute as Raymond Jackson attempted a shot with Dijibril Doumbia down on the ground, but left back Mitchell Graesser was there to stop the shot in net. The ball rebounded off the defender for yet another chance, this time saved by Doumbia.
“Our defense was great, it was really clean,” Doumbia said. “We communicated and we really focused on the little things. That communication was just on point. Everybody was in it, we played well.”
After a second straight shutout, Boulder has allowed just one goal in the 2016 playoffs.
“Defensively, I think that gives us a lot of confidence,” Doumbia said. “It really gives us that mentality to keep that going and not let any goals in.”
Boulder outscored its opponents 13-1 in the first two games of the playoffs, including an eight goal fireworks show against Rampart. Grandview was able to somewhat stymie the Panther offense in comparison.
“(Grandview) coach Brian Wood does a tremendous job with his team,” Boulder head coach Hardy Kalisher said. “I knew they would be organized, athletic and they would have a gameplan. At this point in the season, you’ve got to earn every goal you get. The boys had to work for it and earned it tonight.”
Kalisher was named 2016 Front Range League coach of the year and has seen many good Boulder High soccer teams in his tenure as head coach.
“Every team builds off of the previous teams,” Kalisher said. “These guys are fully aware they wouldn’t be here today without last year’s team and the team before that.”
This tremendous season has been building for quite some time. Boulder is currently ranked No. 1 in MaxPreps’ national high school soccer rankings and boasts a perfect 18-0 record.
“This season I will never forget,” Castruita said. “It’s something special.”
“We need to try not to get too arrogant and really focus on the first half, not about the wins,” Doumbia said. “There is that point where if we’re constantly winning, there’s a difference between playing to win and playing to not lose. I think we have to play to win.”
However, Boulder is seeded second in the 5A state bracket. This could cause the Panthers to have a chip on their shoulders feeling they have something to prove. But they aren’t focused on that at all. Castruita and Kalisher both said it doesn’t give them any extra fuel.
“I told the guys there was a computer deciding that sort of thing,” Kalisher said. “What we know is that we’re playing some good football and we’re doing it because we work real hard for each other.”
Instead, Boulder focused on what they can control.
“Our motto is hard work will beat skill when skill doesn’t work hard,” Kalisher said. “We know at this point in the season everybody is working hard, so our hard work has to even trump our skill.”
Looking ahead to the semifinals, No. 30 Fossil Ridge stands up next. Fossil Ridge has upset No. 3 Cherry Creek, No. 14 Lincoln, No. 6 Arapahoe and now sets its sights on No. 2.
“In the playoffs, anything can happen,” Castruita said. “Last year, No. 27 Mountain Vista got to the finals. It’s the playoffs, you have to give it your all no matter what seed you are.”
Castruita and Boulder beat Fossil Ridge in the regular season, 4-1.
“They know us, we know them,” Kalisher said. “We’re going to play them on a field with more space, and we love space and time so we can create.”
For Kalisher and Boulder, success comes from trust.
“Trust what got us here, trust the fundamentals that got us here. Trust our La Familia culture,” Kalisher said. “They’ve put a lot of time into the skill of the game, but now it’s about answering the question, ‘What is your why?’ and they look eachother in the eye and they answer that question on the field.”