LAFAYATTE — The Dawson School boys lacrosse team has been rewarded in many ways for its historic playoff run to the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in 2015.

One of the ways in which the Mustangs have been recognized is with the No. 1 overall ranking in the state as determined by the voters in the Colorado High School Activities Association preseason poll. A significant honor and a sign over respect, for sure.

But the Mustangs want to surpass last season's effort and, while the top spot in the season is great, they're not putting too much stock in how they are perceived in March.

"We're very excited about this year," senior captain Wyatt Watts said. "The number one ranking, it's nice. But there's also only one way to go from there and that's down. So we're just planning to do everything we can to keep getting better so we can stay up there."

Facing a loaded schedule in 2015, the Mustangs went 11-7 and reached the Class 4A Final Four for the first time in the program's history. Of their seven losses, four were by one goal, including a 11-10 loss to eventual champion Aspen in the semifinals.

The Mustangs were clearly one of the most talented groups in the state, and many of their all-state-caliber players are back, hence the No. 1 ranking.

"The important thing to look at with preseason rankings is that a lot of it isn't based on anything people have seen this season," senior captain Jesse Rosenblatt said. "We really can't put much stock in it. Our focus this year is on the smaller things, ground ball work, making the extra pass, things like that. We're really trying not to look at the stats and focus on our team play."

The Mustangs did graduate 2015 senior stud Chase Brown, who head coach Peter Devlin called, "irreplaceable." But the bulk of their offense is back, and that includes sophomore Gavyn Pure (47 goals, 55 assists) and Rosenblatt (57 goals, 20 assists), who together accounted for 179 of the Mustangs' 425 points last season.

Where graduation hit the Mustangs hardest was at the defensive end. They will have to find a way to replace all three of their starting defenders from 2015. They'll also likely have to do it primarily with underclassmen and mostly freshmen.

"When we had our first scrimmage, you could see that they were a little scared. But after seeing what it's like, I think they know what's expected of them," junior captain Kyle Sudol said. "Our team is a family, and we're all really supportive of them. I think they'll be great."

The Dawson boys are ranked No. 1 to start the 2016 season. What they really want is to be No. 1 when it ends.

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi