LAFAYETTE — After facing off in back-to-back state championship games, the Dawson School and Valor Christian boys lacrosse teams have developed quite a rivalry with one another despite their schools being 50 miles apart and on opposite sides of the Denver metro area.
On a slushy Tuesday evening at Dawson, the two teams reprised their rivalry in a rematch of the past two Class 4A state championship games, both of which ended in celebrations for Valor Christian. The most recent iteration of the series went in favor of the No. 1-ranked Dawson Mustangs, who won 10-9 over the fifth-ranked Eagles.
It was the Mustangs' third consecutive victory by the exact score of 10-9, including a pair of wins via last-second goals including a win over then-No. 1 Thompson Valley last Thursday that returned the Mustangs to 4A's top spot in the CHSAANow.com poll.
"We try to treat every team the same, keep it strictly business and not let emotions get too involved in it," Mustangs senior midfielder Jack Shams said. "But this one feels good. All week we were excited for this. The weather was kind of bad but we came out ready. These are the games that we want. Our last three games have been one-goal games with a ton of adversity and all of my teammates have done a great job stepping up."
Against the Eagles (8-4, 4-0 Metro) on Tuesday, the Mustangs (10-1, 4-0 Pikes Peak) raced out to a 5-0 lead but expected the two-time defending champions would make a comeback at some point. The Mustangs led 5-3 at halftime and 8-5 to start the fourth quarter. The Eagles' inevitable push came in the final quarter and they cut the lead to one with 1 minute, 47 seconds left to play.
The Mustangs, who received some outstanding play from sophomore goaltender Dawson Santangelo in the final four minutes, weathered the storm to collect their 10th win of the season.
"I was really pleased with how we played," Mustangs head coach Peter Devlin said. "It was not a perfect game at all, but I thought we had a good plan and we executed it well. They have one of the best faceoff guys, if not the best faceoff guy, in the state. With him out there, the possessions just become that much more important. Our offense did a great job of being patient, working through our sets and finding our matchups and our defense held it down, particularly in the first quarter."
The job of taking on Valor Christian's Loyola-bound junior Eric Pacheco on the faceoff fell to Mustangs junior Aidan Abram, who assumed the role despite never having taken a faceoff before. While Shams finished with three goals and three assists and leading scorer Gavyn Pure had a hat trick of his own, Abram's teammates pointed to his effort in the faceoff circle as the primary difference-maker in their victory.
"Eric is a really good faceoff guy and he did really well today," Abram said. "We made a plan of not even trying to win the clamp and just to try to check his stick and then win the ball fifty-fifty. Being able to win those fifty-fifty balls was big for us."
The Mustangs will host Windsor (5-6, 3-1 Pikes Peak) on Thursday with a chance to lock up the Pikes Peak League championship.
Dawson 10, Valor Christian 9
At Dawson SchoolValor Christian (8-4)0324—9
Goals — Valor Christian: Acheson 3, Saupe 2, Traynor 2, Rich, West; Dawson: Pure 3, Shams 3, Walker 2, Kamigaki, Watts.
Assists — Valor Christian: Rich 2, Altman, Pacheco; Dawson: Watts 3, Pure, Kamigaki.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Valor Christian: Liselli (48-10-7); Dawson: Santangelo (48-9-8).