PARKER — The boys lacrosse program at Dawson reached the state title game in each of the past three seasons, which is no easy task. And neither is replacing 20 varsity players.
The 2019 version of the Mustangs are far different than their 2018 selves — when they fell just shy of bringing the school its first championship in the sport after bowing out to Cheyenne Mountain in the Class 4A finals, 8-6.
Graduation spelled the end for players like Gavyn Pure and his 120 points from last spring, while the opening of new district programs at Erie and Mountain Range absorbed many others.
With only six returning varsity players, the road will look different.
"We're working with a lot of guys that don't have varsity experience," said Dawson coach Peter Devlin, whose team fell to Ponderosa 7-4 on Friday evening. "I was really proud of the way they played (today). We improved over the course of the game and they played as hard as they possibly could.
"And there were a lot of bright moments."
This, not one of them: A 30-minute delay due to nearby lightning.
A thick fog had engulfed EchoPark Stadium at halftime as a strong wind and rain began to fiercely whip across the field. Players on both sides briefly returned from the locker rooms prior to the start of the second half before being instructed to go back. Over the loud speaker, the stadium announcer asked spectators to return to their vehicles until the weather improved.
It wasn't the first time the Parker-based facility hosted some pretty unusual weather for the visiting teams from up north. A week ago, the girls soccer team from Broomfield beat Legend as a brutal wind kicked up right before half and brought thick, icy rain.
For Dawson's lacrosse team, weather has only been a part of its strange start to the season. The Mustangs had to clear snow off their field in their forever-ago opener March 7, in which they beat George Washington 4-0. Twenty-two days later, they played game two of the year.
"We have a break at school and then we had the Dawson spring break. And now we have the BVSD spring break, and we got some Peak to Peak kids, so there's a three-week chunk where we're not together as a team really, a full team," Devlin said. "So, we're trying to build that momentum back up."
Fog lifted in the second half while a mix of snow and rain intensified in the third quarter before lightening up early in the fourth. It again grew stronger in the final minutes.
Phil Geraghty and Spencer Sampliner, two of the team's varsity returnees, each scored twice for Dawson (1-1), which trailed 4-1 before rallying to make it a one-goal game after Sampliner's second with 4:24 left in the third.
Ponderosa (3-2), though, answered. And more so, Scott Engle did. He scored 21 seconds later and added another two in the fourth to help Ponderosa hold on.
Geraghty netted his second at the final buzzer from distance. Afterward, the junior midfielder said the team is still adjusting.
"It's a lot of kids that we haven't played with in the past years," Geraghty said. "We got to spend a lot of time together in the locker room, do a lot of team building. And just really work together and only be helpful to each other, and make sure everybody's supported and they have everything they need.
"Losing a lot of kids to other programs is challenging because you're going to have to go on and play them later in the season. But you just hope your new team, that you believe in, can go out there and do the best, and show your old friends what we got."
Next for Dawson, it will host Cheyenne Mountain in a rematch of last year's title game Tuesday.
Brent W. New: firstname.lastname@example.org and @brentwnew
Ponderosa 7, Dawson 4
At EchoPark StadiumDawson (1-1) 1 1 1 1 — 4
Goals — Dawson: Sampliner 2, Geraghty 2; Ponderosa: Engle 3, Snyder 2, Bauer 2.
Assists — Dawson: No assists; Ponderosa: Snyder, Stevens, McCoy.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Dawson: Santangelo (48-7-11); Ponderosa: Meyers (45-3-8), Davis (3-1-0).