ERIE — The first game between Dawson School and the new St. Vrain Valley School District program at Erie reunited old teammates and plenty of mixed feelings Thursday night.
Fresh off an expansion of the state’s high school lacrosse scene that shifted 13 Dawson players to the unveiled programs at Erie and Mountain Range, many faces from the Mustangs’ 2018 roster met back up for the first time since their forced separation.
Tyler Gardner scored two goals against his former teammate and friend Dawson Santangelo early in the fourth quarter and the surging Tigers beat Dawson 9-2 in their inaugural meeting.
“It was kind of weird,” Gardner admitted. “I was shooting against (Santangelo) in practice these past years and then coming out here and competing against him. … It’s weird shooting against him. He knows us and knows our shots.”
Santangelo was spectacular in net in stopping 22 shots. Erie dictated pace and possession from the opening faceoff, but led just 3-1 after three quarters thanks largely to the Mustangs’ dynamic play in net. Santangelo and his old teammates shared a few laughs following the game.
“What happened with the whole separation was tough, but I wouldn’t give up coming back out here to play with these guys whether it’s on the same team or different teams,” Santangelo said. “Just being able to spend time with them on the field, it’s one big family reunion.”
These changes have shifted the power in the local lacrosse scene.
Dawson (4-5, 0-3 4A Northern), which had been one step away from raising a state title after falling in the Class 4A championship game the past three seasons, is now young and rebuilding. The Tigers (9-1, 3-0), meanwhile, won for the ninth time in 10 games in what has been a dazzling inaugural season behind a suffocating defense led by former Dawson and first-team all-state defenders Aidan Abram and Sage Gardner.
Of Erie’s roster, a total of 11 of its 25 varsity players listed on MaxPreps played under Dawson coach Peter Devlin in 2018. Cam Cramer makes 12 — as he was on the Devlin’s roster in 2017 before transferring.
“I’d be lying if I said (this game) didn’t bring a lot of challenges with it, mostly because our coaching staff cares a lot for those 12 guys and their families,” Devlin said. “We wish nothing but the best for them, for sure. But for us, we aren’t interested in feeling sorry for ourselves or making excuses. We’re focused on working hard every day and practicing humility and trying to learn all the wonderful lessons sports teach us.
“And there’s a lot of lessons to learn of this season and this whole entire process.”
Erie had goals from Corby Tecu and Jackson Keener 33 seconds apart in the first quarter and got another from Stone Keener before the half. Cade Carlson cut the deficit to 3-1 for Dawson with the only goal in the third.
In the fourth, the Tigers scored four times in the first 3:38 to pull away. Tyler Gardner had two of them, while Adam Bristow and Taylor Kamigaki added the others during the spurt.
Cramer and Joe Notaro also scored late for Erie. Owen Hinirichs added the other goal for Dawson.
As part of a warm postgame greeting, many players, coaches and parents from both teams exchanged pleasantries and hugs down on the field.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Santangelo said. “But they’re a fantastic team and I hope they can kind of finish what we were on our way to.”
Brent W. New: email@example.com and @brentwnew
Erie 9, Dawson School 2
At Erie HS
Dawson (4-5, 0-3) 0 0 1 1 — 2
Goals — Dawson School: Carlson, Hinrichs; Erie: T. Gardner 2, Tecu, J. Keener, S. Keener, Kamigaki, Bristow, Cramer, Notaro.
Assists — Dawson School: Hinrichs, Sampliner; Erie: Bristow 3, Cramer, Adams, Beach, Kamigaki.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Dawson School: Santangelo (48-9-22); Erie: Beach (48-2-2).