DENVER — All Dawson School boys lacrosse coach Peter Devlin could do Friday night was clutch his hat in his hands, crouch down on his heels and stare a hole in the Mile High Stadium turf.
The Mustangs had beat their nemesis Valor Christian in the Class 4A state quarterfinals, had waltzed past Golden in the semifinals on Wednesday and built a huge amount of momentum heading into their state championship appearance against first-timer Cheyenne Mountain.
Since 1987, the Indians have claimed at least one team state championship every single school year by their athletics programs — and that streak was in jeopardy when the Indians took the field Friday. Yet with an 8-6 upset victory for the Colorado Springs-based school, they maintained that tradition of excellence while the Mustangs were left dumbfounded after their third-straight championship defeat.
Senior Jack Shams scored three goals for the Mustangs in his final game, and Gavyn Pure added two goals and an assist, but Dawson was limited to just three goals over the final 34 minutes, 25 seconds after taking a 3-0 lead in the game.
"I really feel like we had our chances but that (Cheyenne Mountain) had some kids step up big for them, and it really just wasn't our day," said Devlin, whose team finished another fantastic season with a 17-2 record. "It's unfortunate and disappointing, and you feel so bad for the seniors on this team who have had amazing careers. I'm just grateful for them, and I wish they would have gone out on top.
"We try and focus on some of the great moments that we had this season, and there were a lot of them. Unfortunately it didn't end the way we hoped it would."
Dawson was making its third-straight appearance in the championship game, and having beaten a very good Valor team in the quarterfinals seemed on the surface like the final obstacle to overcome for the Mustangs — who were ranked No. 1 in 4A polls all season.
There was a showing of patience early while Dawson was trying to figure out Cheyenne Mountain's zone defense, but eventually the Mustangs scored first when Pure dodged from behind the net with 7:54 left in the opening quarter to make it 1-0. Shams made it 2-0 by beating the first-quarter horn — and what turned out to be a 50-minute lightning delay — and Pure scored to make it 3-0 with just 1:35 gone in the second.
Cheyenne Mountain's goalie Liam Hybl started to make a real difference at that point, and so, too, did the Indians' few adjustments to tighten the zone defense even more.
Over the final 6:45 of the second quarter, Cheyenne Mountain tallied three goals to Dawson's one. Asher Walker scored a beauty of a goal with a feed from Hunter Watts with just 17 seconds to go before half, but the Indians were able to match the effort with a Mark Reynolds to Jack Egan score with just a second left to make it 4-3.
Cheyenne Mountain controlled the face-off in the second half, and that played a part in Dawson scoring just one goal in each of the third and fourth quarters.
They still had a 6-5 lead with 3:58 left in the game after Shams finished off his hat trick, but a face-off win for the Indians was converted to a tying goal just 11 seconds later — the first of three Cheyenne Mountain goals to finish off the game.
August Johnson scored the game-winning goal for Cheyenne Mountain.
"We were fighting for groundballs on those face-offs, and we just weren't able to come up with them when we really needed them," Devlin said. "A couple defensive errors for us in a close game, and that's the difference."
Cheyenne Mountain 8, Dawson School 6
At Mile High StadiumCheyenne Mtn. (15-4)0323—8Dawson School (17-2)2211—6
Goals — Cheyenne Mountain: Jack Egan 2, August Johnson 2, Jack Paul 1, Ike Eastburn 1, Cole Mika 1, Wiley Burkett 1; Dawson School: Jack Shams 3, Gavyn Pure 2, Asher Walker 1.
Assists — Cheyenne Mountain: Mark Reynolds 1, Deano Johnson 1; Dawson School: Hunter Watts 2, Pure 1, Jackson Keener 1.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Cheyenne Mountain: Liam Hybl (48-6-9); Dawson School: Dawson Santangelo (48-8-8).