Quest for first boys lacrosse state title comes up just short

Dennis Pleuss
Jeffco Public Schools
Posted 6/30/21

ENGLEWOOD — Evergreen’s boys lacrosse team was six minutes away from hoisting the Class 4A state trophy June 22 at Englewood High School. The Cougars had scored four unanswered goals to grab a …

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Quest for first boys lacrosse state title comes up just short

Posted

ENGLEWOOD — Evergreen’s boys lacrosse team was six minutes away from hoisting the Class 4A state trophy June 22 at Englewood High School.

The Cougars had scored four unanswered goals to grab a 4-2 lead on top-seeded Cheyenne Mountain (12-1 record) in the state championship game. However, the Indians mounted a comeback for the ages with three goals in the final 5:15 minutes of the fourth quarter to steal a 5-4 victory from the Cougars.

“We knew we had to play 48 minutes of solid lacrosse. Some of those small mistakes toward the end really did cost us. That was unfortunate,” Evergreen coach Jay Egger said after the Cougars’ first appearance in a boys lacrosse state championship game. “We played a really good Cheyenne Mountain team. Congratulations to them; they deserved it.”

Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Kevin Papa scored the eventual-game winning goal off a great feed from senior Zak Paige in the final minute of regulation-time. Paige fired a hard pass to Papa, who was camped out just to the right of Evergreen senior goalie Andrew Morris.

“They worked it around to the top right corner and kind of lulled our defense a little asleep,” Morris said of the Indians’ eventual game-winning goal. “When we expected a shot from the top left, they fired a pass right across my face. It was a beautiful play by them. They deserved that goal.”

Evergreen (11-2) has a couple of scoring chances late. A play set-up for senior Ben Crosbie just missed, and a final shot by senior Connor Dries was saved by Cheyenne Mountain sophomore goalie Matthew Kelleher in the final seconds.

It’s the second state title for Cheyenne Mountain, who has advanced to the last three 4A state championship games in 2018, 2019 and 2021. There was no state championship game in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We knew if we could get one more goal in there, that would give us all the momentum,” Egger said about the Cougars going up 4-2 with the goal from Dries early in the fourth quarter. “It was right there.”

Cheyenne Mountain took a 2-0 lead through the first quarter with goals from sophomore Hank Walsh and Papa. However, the Indians were tagged with a 2-minute illegal stick penalty between the first and second quarters.

Evergreen took advantage with senior Jared Stiller rifling in the Cougars’ first goal 19 seconds into the second quarter.

“That man-up play gave us some momentum that we needed to come back,” Stiller said of his power-play goal.

It was a defensive struggle for the remainder of the first half. Morris was solid in net with defenders Stiller, senior John Wagner and sophomore Mike Crane holding Cheyenne Mountain scoreless for more than 30 minutes of play.

“We kind of knew if we were going to stay in the game we had to keep our defense together and hold them down,” Stiller said. “Damn, we did pretty good but not good enough.”

Evergreen scored back-to-back goals in a span of 7 seconds in the third quarter to take a 3-2 lead. Sophomore Nash Carroll got off a shot before taking a huge hit, but the shot got past Kelleher. Senior Jack Fairbanks won the ensuing face-off and drove to the net and scored with 7:53 left in the third quarter to give the Cougars their first lead.

A power-play goal by Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Wyatt Furda cut Evergreen’s lead to 4-3 with 5:15 to play. Papa had a hard shot hit off the post and in with 3:42 left to tie the game at 4-4 before Papa’s third goal of the night sealed the victory for the Indians.

“Things could have fallen either way,” Egger said. “Tonight I’m proud of our coaches. I’m proud of our players. We just fell a little short. Hopefully we gave the community and our families a good show. Evergreen is going to be around here for a while.”

Evergreen went 1-13 during the 2016 season.

Egger took over the program in 2017 and the Cougars went 10-5. Evergreen made its first playoff appearance in 2018. Two years ago the Cougars won their first playoff game. This year Evergreen won its first-ever conference title while making its deepest postseason run in the program’s history.

“If there is anything we can still be proud coming out of this game,” Stiller said. “We were setting (school) records even before we got to the playoffs. We did stuff this school has never seen before. I definitely believe we’ll see another Evergreen boys lacrosse team back here soon.”

Evergreen graduates 17 seniors that were the heart of the Cougars during this historic season.

“I’m so proud of these boys and this program,” Egger said. “They changed this program forever. These 26 players have changed it. They worked so hard and I wanted (state title) for them. I’ve been coaching a long time, and I’ve never had a group like this. I love every single one of them.”

Dennis Pleuss is the Sports Information Director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage go to CHSAANow.com/Jeffco

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