The two-time defending Class 4A boys lacrosse state champions — Cheyenne Mountain — will have to go through Erie to claim a third straight title.
The top-seed Red-Tailed Hawks and No. 2 Tigers both won their state semifinal games Saturday at Peter Barton Stadium on the University of Denver Campus. Cheyenne Mountain and Erie were scheduled to square off May 22 (after press deadline) back at Peter Barton Stadium.
It will be the third straight season the two have met in the playoffs. Cheyenne Mountain eliminated Erie in the state semifinals in 2021 and 2022 on the Red-Tailed Hawks’ way to the 4A state titles.
(1) Cheyenne Mountain 10, (5) Evergreen 7
Cheyenne Mountain used a 6-1 scoring run from the end of the second quarter until the beginning of the fourth quarter to punch its ticket to the program’s fifth constitutive 4A state championship game.
The top-seed and two-defending state champions defeated No. 5 Evergreen 10-7 in the first of two 4A semifinal games at Peter Barton Stadium at DU.
The Red-Tailed Hawks (15-3 record) held a slim 3-2 lead late in the first half against the upset-minded Evergreen Cougars (11-6). However, Cheyenne Mountain senior Kevin Papa scored just before halftime to give his team a 5-2 lead a halftime.
“We knew they are a great team. I respect Evergreen. They deserve to be here,” Cheyenne Mountain coach Mike Paige said. “We knew it was going to be a series of runs. They had some and we had more.”
The Red-Tailed Hawks got goals from Hank Walsh, Stefan Dingbaum and Will Weinstein in the third quarter. Papa had a pair of goals in the fourth quarter for his team-high five tallies.
“It’s a game waves and we are just looking to take whatever momentum we get. I’m glad that we found it,” Papa said of the scoring flurry to end the first half that carried into the third quarter. “People stepped up in the right time.”
Evergreen trailed 9-3 with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Cougars got a prime opportunity to get back into the game. Cheyenne Mountain was called for a 3-minute non-releasable foul to give Evergreen a one-man advantage.
“I think we have one of the best one-man down groups in the state,” Cheyenne Mountain senior goalie Matty Kelleher said of the Red-Hailed Hawks’ 3-minute non-releasable penalty early in the fourth quarter. “We were rolling on defense. I wasn’t scared at all.”
Evergreen didn’t score during the 3-minute advantage, but did have one final surge. Sam Grimshaw, Ethan Scheik, Leo Kailus and Will Wales all scored in the final 7 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as Cheyenne Mountain took the 10-7 victory.
“I knew (Evergreen) would be a tough challenge and they would get a couple of punches through,” Kelleher said of the Cougars, who Cheyenne Mountain defeated in 2021 for the state title.
Cheyenne Mountain has a 3-1 record in the 4A state championship games played since 2018 as the program goes after its fourth state title Monday.
“The job isn’t finished,” Papa said. “We are looking to move on to the next game. We knew we would be there (title game).”
(2) Erie 14, (3) Dakota Ridge 9
Erie is going to get the rematch it wanted.
The No. 2-seeded Tigers defeated the upstart No. 3 Dakota Ridge Eagles 14-9 to advance Erie to its first boys lacrosse state title game Saturday afternoon. The Tigers will face an old nemesis in Cheyenne Mountain in the state championship game on Monday back at DU.
“We were focused on winning this game and seeing Cheyenne Mountain in the state championship,” Erie junior attacker Liam Connors said. “We’ve seen them in the semis every year, but we wanted to see them in the championship.”
Cheyenne Mountain has ended Erie’s season that last two years in the 4A state semifinals. The Red-Tailed Hawks defeated the Tigers 10-6 in a non-league game back on May 5 before the start of the playoffs.
“Cheyenne Mountain is a great team,” Erie senior goalie Colin Selters said. “I’m so excited to play them. I love playing in big games. It is time for us to win.”
Erie (15-3) took care of business against Dakota Ridge (15-3), who were making its first appearance in the semifinals. Junior Charlie O’Brien scored back-to-back goals over the span of 27 seconds to give the Tigers a quick 3-0 lead.
However, the Eagles called a quick timeout and made the adjustment of putting senior defender Noah Triplett on O’Brien to lockdown Erie’s leading goal scorer.
“(Dakota Ridge) called a really good timeout in the first quarter to stop our momentum,” Connors said after the Tigers took a 3-0 lead through the first 2-minutes of action. “We have practice Chuck (O’Brien) being locked up. It’s everyone filling in the void.”
The Eagles cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-3 at the end of the first quarter with a pair of goals from sophomore Tyler Read and a tally from senior Cameron Hartman.
Connors took over offensively in the final three quarters scoring a game-high five goals. It seemed like whenever the Eagles were in position to make a run either Selters would come up with a big save for Connors would hit the back of the net.
“Erie is one hell of a team,” Dakota Ridge coach Dak Riecke said. “They are coached great. Their players are great.”
Read, Seymour and freshman Landon Kalsbeck all had two goals each for the Eagles in the loss that ended a 14-game winning streak. Erie did defeat Dakota Ridge 12-4 earlier in the season back on March 13.
“We were in unknown territory for Dakota Ridge lacrosse,” Riecke said of joining Cheyenne Mountain, Evergreen and Erie in the Final Four just a few years removed from Dakota Ridge having a 1-9 record during the COVID shortened
2021 season. “This is just the first time you are going to see Dakota Ridge in the semifinals. It’s going to be a yearly thing for us.”
Dennis Pleuss is the sports information director for Jeffco Public Schools. For more Jeffco coverage, go to CHSAANow.com.