LAFAYETTE — Even the most perfect of plans can fall through during crunch time. Dawson boys lacrosse knows that feeling all too well.
On Tuesday on their home field, with just seconds left to break a tie in their first-round game of the Class 4A state playoffs, the 11th-seeded Mustangs were running out of options and fast. No. 22 Conifer had taken Leo Bellanca and Holden Walker — Dawson’s two most prolific scorers — out of the equation.
So head coach Peter Devlin drew up a new play.
Senior midfielder Owen Belt whipped around from the back of the cage to take one last shot against Conifer goalie Noah Hartmann. The Mustangs on the field and on the sidelines couldn’t contain their excitement when the ball kissed the back of the net with only 13.4 seconds left in regulation.
They all stormed the field when the clock officially hit zero following the faceoff. That late score capped off an incredible comeback for Dawson, who earlier trailed as many as five goals. The Mustangs defeated Conifer with a 13-12 final.
“It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It was euphoric. I mean, I can’t describe it. It was amazing,” Belt said. “Usually, it’s not me in those high stress situations, so it was new for me. I’m just so thankful that it went in.”
Earlier in the contest, strong goalie play from Hartmann and an even stronger defense from the Lobos stunted Dawson’s scoring drive as the visitors powered themselves to an 8-3 lead with eight minutes left in the third quarter.
That’s when Walker flipped the switch.
Over the course of the next 10 minutes, the Mustangs furiously stormed back to net eight goals — four of which came from Walker — while only allowing the Lobos to score once more. The 11-9 lead they built up quickly evaporated thanks to a defensive breakdown behind the crease to set up for the dramatic finish.
“(Walker) has been our spark for three years and he’s a pretty awesome kid, so I’m not surprised at all,” Devlin said. “They’ve shown a lot of grit the whole season. We did not have our best stuff in the first half. I was just hoping they could kind of dig deep and pull it together. We made a few small adjustments, and I think it was a lot better effort in the second half. I think very highly of this senior group, so I’m not surprised that they were able to pull it out.”
The Mustangs improved to 11-5 with the win, and will head next to No. 13 Northfield on Friday at 7 p.m. Walker believes the foundation the team has built, not only this season but through the strong leadership of nine seniors, carried them toward success when they needed it most.
“(Devlin) always says, ‘Keep pounding the rock.’ That’s our saying,” Walker said. “A stonemason cracking a rock doesn’t break it on the 1000th hit, or the 999th. It’s every hit along the way. And that’s when it comes together (for) our team. It’s not just one person and not just two people. There’s people like Owen Belt, making a game winning shot out of his mind. It’s just not one person. We all got to come together as a team and just fight.”