November 12, 2016 was quite the day in Colorado high school boys soccer history. Like any other fall it pitted top teams in Class 5A against each other at Dick's Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids.
What no one knew at the opening kick was that this was going to be a game that no one would forget.
Boulder scored first but Broomfield tied the game in the second half. At the end of regulation, there was no winner. It went to the first overtime. Then the second. Then into penalty kicks where it stretched out for 14 rounds before Boulder came away the victor.
Three-and-a-half years later, Broomfield coach Jim Davidson and forward Armando Ocampo along with Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher and keeper Djibril Doumbia recounted arguably the greatest game they have all ever been involved in.
Boulder entered the game undefeated and had already beaten Broomfield 2-1 earlier in the year. But this was a new day on a neutral field and both teams felt confident heading in.
Kalisher: We were coming off of quite a quite a streak of wins and hadn't experienced losses in a while. They say going into winning streaks like that, the whole cliche is it's not a bad thing to lose one before the playoffs. That team in particular was very just laser focused on every game that was in front of them and just playing as a great team.
Ocampo: A lot of us had already been in that position before, so I think that we were in the right headspace. We always played with the mentality that we had nothing, nothing to lose.
Davidson: We had gone on a great run in the playoffs and we felt good about playing Boulder on that big field. Boulder is so good on their home field. In fact, I think that there is no other field in the state that provides the home field advantage that Recht does. So we felt good about having them on a neutral field.
Kalisher: Broomfield has such a great tradition in the playoffs. Obviously before that game and after that game we had a lot of experience with Broomfield and the playoffs. One of the things that we knew about Broomfield is the team that we were going to be playing was going to be a stronger, better, more determined and mentally focused opponent than we'd seen earlier in the year.
Doubmia: I just remember the feeling. Everyone was smiling, happy, cracking jokes, but also some people were focused and listening to music. I think that the general feeling was just excitement and we were just ready to go play that game. It was a long time coming.
Boulder's Simon Julien scores in the 10th minute to put Boulder up 1-0
Doubmia: You might think that after your team scores a goal, you get this sense of relief or something like that. But for me it was actually the exact opposite. I got this rush of nerves because you're going up a goal and now the pressure is on you.
Ocampo: Getting scored on is always a little wake up call. You need to do better. And I think that's how we took it without losing control and running around like crazy.
Kaliser: It was one of the nicest, most spectacular goals I've seen scored in all the years I've been coaching high school soccer. Simon Julian was the left winger, right footed and all season is his move was to take it down the line, cut it into his right foot and then shoot. He usually would take an extra touch with you just to get a little more control. He took one touch in which we'd been training on and was getting the shot off earlier.
Davidson: It was a little scary to be honest with you. We went down early in the match against a team like that likes to attack. I think at that point we were just thinking let's get the game to halftime. Let's just try to get out 1-0 and see if we can go get an equalizer in the second half.
Boulder takes a 1-0 lead into halftime, both teams head to the locker room to talk second half strategy
Davidson: I think we did actually really well to get the game to halftime just down a goal.
Ocampo: Jim was always giving us good advice on how to fix things, but I don't remember exactly what he said that day. It's been a few years.
Doubmia: I definitely remember Hardy's composure and how he held himself. It was obviously huge game in his coaching career and it was game in all of our careers and he was very professional and very calm.
Kaliser: It was arguing to win and we talked about continuing to believe in what we do well. So we're going to try to feed our confidence and not focus anything at that point on a state championship.
In the 43rd minute, Ocampo scores to tie the game at a goal apiece
Ocampo: Fighting for that first goal to make up for getting scored on in the first half is certainly a huge blow. It's a wake up call, but it's also a huge blow. Especially not being able to get one in the entirety of the first half. It's just hard mentally. So that that was really a spark and we're back in it and have a chance to now take this home.
Doubmia: That's actually a funny one because Armando was a teammate of mine on another team. So that was kind of annoying. The feeling for me personally was a setback, you know? I have to step it up now. And then I felt like I let my team down.
Davidson: That was huge to get that time goal early in the second half. In fact, I remember making an argument to one of my assistant coaches. Gosh, did that goal come actually too early? We still had a lot of work to do. The other thing is I think that we switched off just a little bit. I think that the game presented itself and I think we could have gone and got that second goal.
Kaliser: Now at that point it's really just trying to keep up the attack. We never lost the plot of what we were trying to do. At that point, it was as expected that we were seeing a better Broomfield team than we had seen during the regular season.
No one scores for the remainder of regulation or the two overtime periods and the game moves into penalty kicks where the pressure on both teams increases
Davidson: I feel like it's a moment you prepare for, but you're actually never totally prepared for it. It puts a lot of pressure on the goalkeeper and then certainly the guys that we chose to take the spot kicks.
Kaliser: Interestingly, for whatever reason, we had had practiced penalty kicks more than any team I've ever had. Throughout the season, it was a fun way for us to end practices. We had a lot of penalty kick contests and divide the guys, put them at half field. So they had experienced that.
Ocampo: I really don't feel like I have that much pressure from the fans as much as I do from, you my own teammates. Uh, and what I mean by that is Even though there were a lot of people at the stadium and it's a big event and it's a big field and I know everyone looks forward to it, a lot of the community comes and supports us. Once we start playing, I really tone that out, not that it's on purpose, but I really start focusing on the game.
Doubmia: A lot of goalkeeper coaches, they will try to tell you that at the end of the day when it comes to PK's, you can guess, you can read it, but at the end of the day, it's not your fault. And I've always remembered that. And I know it might sound like a bit of a lazy mentality and there are some goalkeepers that take that responsibility on. "No, it's my fault and I need to get all of these or save as many as I can." And me personally, I didn't have too many nerves. And I knew the other goalkeeper was a really good goalkeeper.
Each team converts on their first three attempts before Ocampos' shot sails high and Eagles keeper Jose Ogaz keeps hope alive with a save to extend the game
Doubmia: That was a kind of an "oh (darn)" moment. It was such a long game just playing the whole 90, going into the extra time and then finally into PK's. I was tired and it was a very crazy and the whole time you don't have this, because it was just tied and it wasn't going anywhere and there were a lot of close like moments on each side.
Ocampo: Everyone tries to do their job, obviously I didn't there. But that's where the team effort comes in. That's where you trust other people to do their job, to make up for you where you have shortcomings. Obviously there were moments in the games when I would be the one to make up for other shortcomings. So I think it's important to be able to trust that when you have your own your own shortcomings, that your teammates will be there for you. And Jose certainly was.
Drama in the 11th round as Ogaz makes an apparent championship-winning save, but the officials rule he left early and Boulder gets a second chance to extend the game
Ocampo: That was a bit of a bit of a roller coaster there.
Davidson: At one point Jose makes a save and the game was over. We are running across the field, our players are celebrating with their, with their fans, and we think it's a done deal. Then the officials bring that that ball back. I don't know how Jose was able to collect himself, which he did, which was an amazing moment for him to have to go back and take his line again after being called for encroachment, which was absolutely ridiculous at that moment in the game.
Ocampo: Honestly, I think more than anything after the entire game of struggling and battling and working hard, it was, I'd say more than happiness. It was a relief that we had lived up to our expectation. That season that we had lived up to the support of our fans, that we had lived up to our own personal expectations and the expectations of our coaches and our school. So, it was a huge relief when Jose blocked that. When I saw that the ref had ruled that against us, I didn't really know what exactly had gone on. I didn't look carefully at his feet, so I didn't know if it actually was or wasn't correct call.
Kaliser: When you're in a zone as a coach or a player, you're focused. We're so laser focused on the officials and what's happening that even though he made the save and it seems like it's over, the first thing we see is the referee waiting it off. The players on the field, I've seen the photos, were dejected that it was over, but we saw the referee wave it off so we knew that it wasn't over as coaches. And that's some of the excitement. A little bit more of the drama started.
Doubmia: I could see it with my teammates. I could see that they were absolutely gutted and just they didn't even believe it. It was crazy. Things like that, you don't expect it. You know what's going to happen. It's bound to happen. Someone's going to win. Someone's going to lose. But that it happened like that, and especially from my standpoint, because I'm by myself, I'm looking at my whole line of teammates, coaches, staff, everyone. They're out there holding each other and it's crazy. To see them almost break down and then to have that called back was absolutely crazy too. I could just see it in my teammates, that little burst of energy, that burst of life right after it was called back. We have a chance again.
In the 14th round, Doumbia makes a save and Mitchell Graesser scores to end the game, giving Boulder the state title.
Doubmia: There's a feeling that I don't know many people can describe and it's just that a lot of goalkeepers know what it is and it's just that feeling of the ball making contact with your gloves and knowing that you did it.
Ocampo: The circumstances were certainly not easy to take after thinking that you had already won it and then getting that shot blocked. With that being said, you know, hope was not lost yet. Jose had already blocked one. So at that point, our faith was in his hands and I put my trust in him to block it and obviously the chances of blocking a PK are not good. The next one went in as expected, but I think that everyone ultimately did what they could and I think that, um, yeah, yeah, it was definitely disappointing for a lot of us, especially for the seniors who really wanted that one.
Davidson: I have to admit that that was a hard year. That whole year was really tough and knowing that we felt like we had won a state championship to have it taken away was really tough to deal with and I'll tell you how to go on that redemption tour the following year was credible. It was great that our guys got one back.
Kaliser: If I recall, we were just shy of the national record for most penalty kicks in a state championship game. We weren't expecting that to happen.
There's a story behind Mitchell even taking that shot. He was our captain. He was a very strong willed, stubborn if you will, type of a leader. There's no doubt that if there was a kick to be taken to win a game, he wants to take it. That said, we also had a young Omar Castruita on the field who we would want, in terms of a technical player, to take a penalty kick. If you had asked us who our first pick would be, even though he was only a sophomore, everybody on the team would have said Omar should take that penalty kick.
When we got that deep, as coaches, we went back to the rotation. So I actually started yelling for Omar to take the kick. And it's a loud stadium, we're not used to playing in that stadium. And it's really hard for the players on the field to actually hear from the sideline. And I knew that going in, it was our third state championship game. So I'm on the sideline, "Omar! You take the kick." He looks over at Mitchell and Mitchell says "I'm taking the kick!" I looked at the captains and I said "Mitchell, don't take the kick. Let Omar take the kick." And we don't get a timeout like in basketball.
So finally I look at my assistant coaches and tell them that I think I just iced Mitchell. I think I just told Mitchell from across the field that I believe in Omar. And Omar just shrugs his shoulders. Mitchell's taking the kick. So he smashed that ball in the lower left corner and ran the fastest 65 yards I've ever seen to half field and slid in front of his fans. That was actually what was going on the sidelines of the moments leading up that shot.
Four years later, the memories of that game remain fresh in everyone's mind
Ocampo: I really can't be that upset about it. Ultimately, it was a good, it was a good game of soccer. There's nothing more you can ask. That's the way it goes. The reason I say you can't be too upset about it is because PK's are a tough way to decide the outcome of a game, especially when it's that close.
Doubmia: I think about that game so often. Weekly I find myself thinking about it and the feeling that it gives me inside, the warm feeling and the excitement.
Davidson: We were able to put our demons to rest [when we won the 2017 title]. I don't think there's any question about it. Looking at that 2016 Boulder team, was awesome and they were probably the best team in the state. I think they were ranked like second in the country. They were a fantastic team. (I thought ) we were a little better on that night and soccer is fickle like that.
Kaliser: We at Boulder High soccer have been building some momentum. We've won a state championship, we've gone to a state championship game. We've had more Front Range League titles than any of the teams in the league. We've been building some momentum at the state level for sure. But what we did in 2016 was really a breakthrough at a national reputation level.