Air Academy ends playoffs for Aspen boys lax
The Aspen Times
The Skiers kept their dreams alive until the final, closing seconds.
The Aspen High School boys lacrosse team, making the most of a home playoff opportunity Wednesday night, pressed No. 6 seed Air Academy right to the final buzzer in a first-round state matchup at Aspen School District Stadium.
When Henry Godfrey of the Skiers scored off a pass from Burke Daily with 32.5 seconds to play, No. 11 Aspen pulled to within 10-9 in front of the largest home crowd of the season.
But the Kadets controlled the final draw of the game on a spectacular scoop by Chapman Cox, running out the clock for the ultimate 10-9 victory and a berth in the round of 16 in the Class 4A playoffs.
“This is what you live for. It’s why you play sports,” said Godfrey, the Aspen senior who scored a game-high five goals for the Skiers. “To be in a game like this that is close, and you are with your best friends and battling … that’s what everyone lives for.”
Godfrey had given Aspen a hard-fought 8-7 lead over Air Academy early in the fourth period. The Skiers, who trailed 5-4 at halftime, rallied for a 7-7 tie entering the fourth.
Godfrey’s low liner into the net charged up the large home crowd — momentarily.
“The ball was going in,” Godfrey said. “You could feel the crowd; we really worked together.”
But just 21 seconds later, Air Academy junior Austin Konnath scored after taking a long pass from Jake Thornally, tying the score.
And a pass from Konnath set up freshman Noah Thornally for Air Academy’s go-ahead goal with 8:12 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Kadets boosted the lead to 10-8 with 5:27 on the clock on a brotherly goal — senior Jake Thornally from freshman Noah Thornally.
The Skiers’ final offensives eventually led to Godfrey’s fifth goal and the nail-biting one-goal victory for the Kadets.
Daily had two goals for Aspen in the playoff game. RJ Peshek and Jonathan Wells also had goals for the Skiers, who finished the year 9-7.
“We wanted to come in here and play our best; they are the (defending) state champs,” Air Academy coach John Mandico said after the Kadets had to hurriedly arrange the long road trip to Aspen. “We were a 6 seed; we thought we would be at home. But I told my boys that is what happens sometimes. Things don’t go your way. The question is how are you going to respond to adversity.”
On three different occasions Wednesday, Air Academy trailed Aspen (4-2, 7-5, 8-7) with a pair of two-goal deficits.
The Kadets (10-6) came from behind all three times in the road playoff win.
“To tell you the truth, we play better on the road. This was a blessing in disguise,” Mandico said. “It actually motivated us.”
Konnath scored three goals for Air Academy. Braiden Schweitzer, Chapman Cox and Edward MacGuire scored a goal each.
Noah Thornally had a two goals and an assist.
Jake Thornally had two goals and two assists.
“This was much more of a fight than I expected. My hat’s off to Aspen,” the Air Academy coach said. “My hats off to their defense. And their No. 7 (Jonathan Wells) is a dynamite player.”
Air Academy moves to the second round of the playoffs and a game Friday at No. 3 Conifer, a 13-8 winner over Vail Mountain School in the first round.
Battle Mountain from the Mountain League also was eliminated in the opening round with a 15-12 loss to No. 5 Cheyenne Mountain.
Durango, another Mountain League school in the playoffs, lost 17-3 at No. 2 Valor Christian, the team Aspen defeated in the 4A state championship game one year ago.
“Winning the state championship last season and coming back and battling this year (into the playoffs) is something I’ll never forget,” Godfrey said shortly after the Skiers gathered at midfield for a final team photo.
Fully aware he was in the midst of the mountain bike race of his life, Aspen’s John Gaston said he “tried to not think too far ahead” to prevent the magnitude of the moment from getting to him. He eventually finished runner-up in the iconic race.
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