Senior midfielder Eric Ramirez stars for Boulder as the Panthers seek a Class 5A title repeat.
Think of last season’s instant-classic Class 5A title soccer game — in which Boulder defeated Broomfield in a 14-round penalty kick shootout — as a prelude to this season’s action, where a bevy of equally-talented teams are capable of raising the trophy on Nov. 11 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
The Panthers, ranked No. 1 in The Denver Post preseason power poll, headline again thanks to the experience of their 19-man senior class, but No. 3 Broomfield and No. 2 Denver East — which boasts the classification’s top returning scorer in senior striker Sam Carson — are also legitimate contenders.
“We’ve been here before, after winning a state title in 2012, and we know we’re going to see every team’s best effort,” Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said. “I believe we’re truly prepared for that, and that our players realize it’s not about what happened last year, it’s about this year — because there are a lot of teams that can challenge us in the playoffs.”
The Panthers will be tested repeatedly during the regular season considering the Front Range League has five teams in the top 10 in another fall where that conference is only the tip of the iceberg of the state’s wide-ranging talent.
“I have so much respect for (Boulder coach) Hardy Kalisher and (Broomfield coach) Jim Davidson, and you’ve just got to look at them and their entire league as full of contenders,” Denver East coach Kirk Bast said. “And after that, the Centennial’s always strong, and the Denver Public League is kind of a hidden gem. There’s a lot of good players and some rising teams in this league.”
Senior midfielder Eric Ramirez and junior striker Omar Castruita are two of Boulder’s two main players while Broomfield returns one of the state’s top keepers in senior Jose Ogaz.
Denver East has depth to match their northern counterparts in senior keeper Victor Yague Izquierdo, junior midfielder Marko Babiak and senior striker Luca Bravo to compliment Carson on a team that’s ready to raise the bar following last season’s 18-1 season that ended with a 2-1 loss to Broomfield in the semifinals.
“Carson’s going to occupy other defenders at times, and give other players opportunities on offense, because people know who he is now,” Bast said. “Overall, this is one of the best teams I’ve ever had in terms of ownership because they hold each other accountable. That’s what is going to win us those close matches deep in the playoffs this year.”
Fossil Ridge, another 2016 semifinalist, also finds itself in good position as the No. 4 Sabercats bring back offensive firepower in senior Blair Durand and junior Tyler Hause. No. 5 Cherry Creek always have the capacity to reload as the state’s largest school, and No. 6 Fairview, led by senior defender M Steiner and junior midfielder Sajji Singh, are a force.
“We don’t have the standout guy that’s going to score 12 or 15 goals — we know that, so that means we have to manufacture goals and create goals by focusing on set pieces and additional numbers in the box,” Fairview coach Jeff Frykholm said. “We have to collectively agree that no one can take a possession off, and that it might be a year where we have three or four guys who are around six goals on the season.”
Class 5A preseason power rankings
Boulder Denver East Broomfield Fossil Ridge Cherry Creek Fairview Fort Collins Ralston Valley Arapahoe Far Northeast