Boys lacrosse: Aspen advances to state final
The Aspen Times
One more. Just one more.
The Aspen High School boys lacrosse team advanced to the state championship game for the first time ever with a scintillating 11-10 victory over visiting Dawson School on Wednesday afternoon in a playoff thriller that came down to the final possession.
Aspen senior Evan Morris won a critical faceoff with 34 seconds to play right after a dramatic Dawson comeback pulled the Mustangs to within a single goal before a standing-room-only crowd at Aspen School District Stadium.
Morris swept the ball back, a streaking John Heaphey scooped it up, and the Skiers raced into the Class 4A state championship game Friday afternoon at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.
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“All I had to do was get it back to John (Heaphey),” Morris said. “I got called on a kick the time before. But I knew I could get him. I had him all game.”
Morris, who controlled a majority of draws in Wednesday’s state semifinal in Aspen, kept his feet clear as Heaphey raced in from the wing for the critical possession.
“Coaches always tell me, ‘Get the ball to Heaphey.’ I got the ball to Heaphey,” Morris said. “And we’re going to the state championship.”
Heaphey, who scored one goal in the first half and two more in the second, said the Skiers were confident in the last draw.
“Evan is a great faceoff guy,” Heaphey said. “I knew he would come up clutch. He’s been killing it all season.”
Heaphey, Tyler Tick and Harry Ferguson all scored first-period goals when the Skiers took advantage of Dawson turnovers to lead 3-0.
They upped the lead to 5-0 on second-quarter goals by Jonathan Wells and Tick.
But Dawson, the No. 5 seed in the state playoff bracket, came back against the No. 1 seeded Skiers in a preview of the entire second half.
Dawson’s Wyatt Watts scored and a minute later teammate/brother Hunter Watts scored.
Tick and Ferguson scored 32 seconds apart for the Skiers, who re-extended the lead to 7-2 before Dawson — guess what? — rallied again.
Goals from Chase Brown, Gavyn Pure and Alex Aleu cut Aspen’s margin to 7-5 as the third quarter ended.
Again Aspen answered with a pair of goals — Heaphey and Tick. Wells also scored in the fourth for Aspen.
But Dawson countered with two more assists from Pure, and the Mustangs trailed just 10-8 with 5:52 to play.
Heaphey’s wicked shot from the right side found the back of the Dawson cage for Aspen’s 11th — and eventual winning — goal.
Dawson, of course, boosted the drama with two goals late, including Jesse Rosenblatt’s score (off another Pure assist) with 1:08 to go.
Pure, while tumbling down, scored for Dawson with :34 on the clock, cutting the margin to 11-10.
“Evan played insane,” Tick said. “The whole game, insane. He won us the game right there (at the end).”
Tick finished with a game-high four goals and two assists as the Skiers improved to 16-2 — the best record in school history.
Morris, like his teammates, credited the huge home crowd Wednesday afternoon.
“The crowd today was unreal,” said Morris. “Especially before that last faceoff — they were all going nuts. That’s really inspiring for us.”
“The crowd was crazy,” Tick said. “It was like football again.”
Heaphey, who finished with three goals for Aspen, said the Skiers kept their focus during the state semifinal game — played before the largest crowd ever for a high school lacrosse game in Aspen..
“We kept our mental game strong,” Heaphey said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve been in big games against good teams.”
Aspen head coach Mike Goerne, who guided the Skiers all the way to the state semifinals last year, was swarmed by fans and friends after Wednesday’s victory.
“Our boys played their best lacrosse today,” Goerne said. “We stayed with it. We kept riding the waves. It was a clean, intense game from both teams.”
The AHS coach said the Skiers executed their game plan and converted their opportunities.
“Evan had a day; Evan had a great day in the faceoff X,” Goerne said, adding that the Skiers knew possessions off the faceoffs would be critical against an explosive Dawson team.
“I have to commend Dawson on their ability to keep their heads up and keep coming.,” Goerne said. “They have three very lethal guys, who did a good job moving the ball and shooting.”
Aleu finished with three goals for the Mustangs (11-7).
Hunter Watts scored twice. Rosenblatt, Brown and Wyatt Watts had one goal each for Dawson.
And Pure had a game-high five assists along with two goals.
“I appreciate everybody who came out and watched this,” Goerne said as the record crowd made its way out of the stadium. “I can’t believe the love and support this community gives. They show up here for these guys.”
And, he said, they’re all invited to Denver on Friday afternoon when the Skiers will play for the state championship.
“They’re all invited to come to Denver,” Goerne said.
The Skiers will take on either No. 2 Valor Christian (18-0) or No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain (14-4) in the Friday afternoon state title game at the home of the Broncos.
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Herman is the freestyle skiing winner of the Summit Daily’s Peak Performers project, which honors the greatest athletes and most influential figures in Summit county ski and snowboard history.