COLORADO SPRINGS — As a middle schooler, Jacob Bernholtz watched as Crested Butte won a state soccer championship. He sat in the stands, vowing to himself that one day he would get to do for his school what he was seeing unfold right in front of him.
Two years later, he came through on his promise. His goal was the difference as Crested Butte claimed its second Class 2A boys soccer crown in the last three seasons.
Coming off a 6-0 win in the semifinals, the Titans had to battle with Thomas MacLaren, a Colorado Springs area school, to complete the journey they set out on two months ago. A shift in the season and the uncertainty of what COVID would do to the boys soccer season made things a bit more difficult. But the 2-1 win over the Highlanders was the payoff that the boys were hoping for since the moment the season began in March.
"I'm just bless to be able to play on this field with this group of guys," Bernholtz said. "Look at these fans, they drove five hours to be here. Our coaching staff is unbelievable. Look at (head coach Than Acuff), he's been here for so many years and I love this guy."
The early minutes of the game saw two seemingly evenly matched teams trying to capitalized on every opportunity they could get. An early shot from the Titans (10-1-2 overall) was snagged by Highlanders keeper Jeth Fogg, keeping the game scoreless. Each team had a header chance in the first half, but neither capitalized.
The scoreless tie was broken on a brilliant header from Blue Gardner that shot by the outstretched arms of Fogg.
"It was great momentum," Gardner said. "It got us that lead in the first half and helped push us forward."
The Highlanders (9-4) got the momentum back in the second half, scoring on a header of their own. Junior Michael Brophy slammed it into the net to score his 20th of the year, but more importantly equalizing the score and keeping their hopes for a first state championship alive.
"MacLaren came out win a A-plus game in the start of the second half," Acuff said. "They had us on the ropes and when they scored I realized we were back to a real game again."
Right away the Titans had two chances to regain the lead, but just couldn't get the ball on the net. It wasn't until the 73rd minute that a centering pass set Bernholtz up for the winning goal. Just a sophomore, he can still recall the day he saw the Titans win a state title and that feeling means as much to him now as it did then.
"I just remember watching my captain Gabi Marmolejo bang one into the top corner," he said. "I remember watching that and thinking that I want to get one for my school too."
And he did just that. And for a five-hour drive, he gets to enjoy that feeling with his teammates and celebrate a championship with the Crested Butte community.