Steamboat Springs It's not hard to find meaning in today's high school boys lacrosse contest between Steamboat Springs and Summit.
The rivalry is intense between the only two sanctioned teams on the Western Slope. Today's winner will not only have a little room in the bunched-up Foothills Conference and a leg up on a potential playoff spot, but the outcome of today's 4 p.m. game will also crown one team as the best sanctioned lacrosse team this side of Interstate 70.
"It's a Western Slope deal," Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. "That will become bigger and bigger for us. They're a good club. They have some big, strong athletes. It's a good test for us."
Steamboat - currently on a three-game winning steak where the team has outscored its opponents, 40-9 - might be playing the best lacrosse in the program's seven-year history.
After three straight losses to Columbine, Golden and Monarch, Steamboat has started to play a dominating brand of lacrosse.
"It's definitely a big boost that we've had these wins," Gus Worden said. "We've never really had a big blowout win like the last two."
A key component to Steamboat's run has been the play of the attack and the new motion offense. Whereas at times earlier in the season, Steamboat relied on a lot of one-on-one play, the motion offense is starting to get everyone involved.
"That's the key," Hiester said. "They have a big, tough and strong defense. We have to continue with our motion offense. We can't just stand there and let them beat on us. We need to keep the ball moving and the bodies moving."
Last year, the two teams battled back and forth until Steamboat scored the final two goals in a 9-7 win.
Hiester said he expects much of the same this year. Summit (1-1) recently beat Englewood, 15-0. Steamboat downed Englewood, 17-0, in the Sailors' last game.
"They're the only other team that plays in conditions like we do," Steamboat goaltender Scot Forney said. "A win puts us in a positive record at 4-3, which is a big boost for us. This is only the second time we've played them. Even then, it's just taking it to the other mountain town."
Hiester said the key to the game again will be which team wins the ground balls and whether the Sailors' offense can get enough motion to stay away from the Summit defense.
And although it might not be the biggest game on the schedule, Hiester said this is one where Steamboat certainly could build some momentum as the team progresses into the second half of its season.
A win "would be fantastic," Hiester said. "There's a lot riding on the ball game. We just need to go out and play."