DENVER — At the field he’ll call home in a little more than a year, Erie junior Liam Connors took over in the fourth quarter of the Class 4A boys lacrosse finals at Peter Barton Stadium on the University of Denver campus.
Scoring four times in the final 6 minutes, 36 seconds of regulation Monday night, the DU commit’s last one cleared away his team’s forgettable first half, at least momentarily, and erased a four-goal deficit in the fourth, pulling the No. 2 Tigers even with No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain with 12.2 seconds remaining.
The performance was on par with his sister Lucy’s. She had eight goals in Mead’s girls lacrosse title win over Castle View Friday. More heroics, though, was spoiled by a walk-off winner by Logan Mika with 55 seconds left in the double overtime, sending the Red-Tailed Hawks to a 10-9 win and their third straight title and fourth since 2018.
“Liam’s performance in that fourth quarter was clutch and it was tough, and it was skillful, and it was everything I know him to be,” Erie coach Nick Mandia said. “It was cool to see him do it. I wish it was in a win. But he brought us to a place where we could have won that game.”
Instead, for the Erie faithful, this game will remembered as a muddled start followed by a near miraculous finish. Key word being “near”.
Erie was held scoreless in a half for the first time since April of 2019 and trailed by five at the break. Its Division-I bound scoring threats — juniors Charlie O’Brien (University of Vermont) and Connors — were held without a goal through three quarters.
Far from the plan, the Tigers nearly completed a comeback for the ages anyway. Nearly.
Connors’ shot with 2:12 left in the second OT was blocked by keeper Matty Kelleher and the Red-Tailed Hawks scored on a rebound chance on their next possession, ousting the Tigers for a third straight postseason.
Before that, Wyatt Furda scored 64 seconds into the game and finished off his hat trick with 8:51 to go, making it 9-5.
The Tigers had broken a scoring drought of 24 minutes, 44 seconds on Cooper Riley’s bouncing shot in the opening minute of the third. Davis Mundy then added two of his own, the last of which making it 7-5 early in the fourth.
Connors scored four straight to send the game into extra time.
“The first half, I don’t know,” Connors said. “We’ve always played them in the semifinals, and I don’t know if we were scared but we were just gripping our sticks really tight to where we couldn’t play and couldn’t score. At halftime, we made adjustments. It was just another game.”
The championship game came 17 days after the Red-Tailed Hawks beat the host Tigers in the regular-season finale, 10-6.
On that night, there wasn’t much at stake in terms of postseason implications with the teams already tightened into the No. 1 and 2 seeds.
The Red-Tailed Hawks had simply delivered another message to the team they’d had their way with over the years — now 5-1 against Erie all-time — and the Tigers harped afterward that they’d need to play a full four quarters to beat them in a possible rematch.
They fell short of that plan. And it almost didn’t matter.
“That first half was not indicative of what we have been this season,” Mandia said. “But we were able to collect ourselves at halftime and get back to what brought us to this game. That’s a classic, awesome lacrosse game. It had to be entertaining to watch. And it’s heartbreaking.”