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Boys lacrosse: Cheyenne Mountain blocks Erie in Class 4A semis

Red-Tailed Hawks to make fourth straight title game appearance

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ENGLEWOOD — Success in high school athletics isn’t always measured by wins and losses, but by how a team can progress in its short existence.

Erie boys lacrosse has epitomized that rise since its inception in 2019, even as its season came to an end on Monday night at Englewood High School when, for the second straight year, they fell to perennial powerhouse Cheyenne Mountain in the Class 4A state semifinals by a 9-7 final.

They just couldn’t match the defensive pressure that the Red-tailed Hawks were throwing down, especially as their foes dominated the faceoffs to gain possession after extra possession. Still, two Tigers managed to stand out among their crowded, talented offense as senior midfielder Corby Tecu netted a hat trick and sophomore attacker Liam Connors added another two goals.

The two squads played goal-for-goal throughout the first 24 minutes of play, with neither letting the other gain much of an edge early on. Cheyenne Mountain led 5-3 at the half, but that changed at the start of the second frame when the Hawks netted two quick scores to swing the momentum in their favor.

The Tigers cut the deficit to just one goal, 7-6, with six minutes left on the clock, but the defending state champions locked them out after that. That kind of contentious play, however, has come to be expected between these two programs over the past two years.

Just a few weeks earlier, the Tigers grounded the Red-tailed Hawks with a tight 11-9 score.

“I think Cheyenne Mountain is one of the best programs in the state year in and year out,” head coach Nick Mandia said. “For us to be able to compete with them, beat them once this regular season, we play in one, two-goal game battles all the time with them. It takes a resilient, high-IQ, tough, gritty lacrosse team to be able to play four quarters with a team like Cheyenne Mountain. I think that describes the rise. Almost immediately, we’ve been able to compete at the most elite level in 4A in Colorado.”

Both Tecu and Connors provided a window into the past and future of a program that has only seen three seasons, thanks to the COVID canceled 2020 slate.

For the past couple of years, Tecu has served as a mainstay for a young Erie offense. He, along with 15 other elder Tigers, were the founding members of a mixed St. Vrain squad that the team will now be saying goodbye to.

He believes the program is headed for great things and takes pride in a winning culture that was established on day one.

“It’s crazy how you can love so many different people from so many different schools,” Tecu, a Mead student, said. “I think it’s just a testament to the culture that coach Mandia’s built here. It’s really cool to see how it’s grown in four years and there’s no doubt in my mind that this culture will only grow into something even greater than it already is.”

Connors has become one of the newer faces of Erie’s offensive dominance as he and fellow sophomore Charlie O’Brien surged near the crease all year long. They combined for a team-high 98 goals as Tecu added 30 more in his final season.

This added experience, with two straight heartbreakers in the semis to the same team, will only fuel them for the future.

“We’ll have kids who have played against them twice instead of me, a sophomore, one of the only sophomores who had played against them last year,” Connors said. “I think as you play them more in the playoffs and as you play more in the playoffs, you get more experience for the pressure that gets on you, so I think that’ll help everybody a lot, honestly, to perform in those moments and not be scared  or tense for what to do.”

Even though Mandia believes his team has the returning talent to consistently stay at the top of Class 4A for years to come, he’s not ready for what will follow Monday’s loss. The ride, from day one, is something he’ll never forget.

“We have a lot of talent and depth in the program and we’re excited about those guys,” he said. “To be honest, I’m still having a hard time moving on from this group. These seniors are the first seniors I spent four years with. They were the freshmen when we started the program, so this is hard. I’m not ready to think forward yet.”

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