Sailors, Rangers lacrosse confident about today's match

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If you go

What: No. 16 Steamboat vs. No. 17 Lewis-Palmer

When: 5 p.m. today

Where: Gardner Field at Steamboat Springs High School

Pre-game festivities: Alpine Lumber will sponsor a barbecue at 4 p.m. in the parking lot next to Gardner Field. Free food and beverages will be provided

— Lewis-Palmer boys lacrosse coach Sean Denmeade knows what a beautiful place Steamboat Springs is.

He's excited to get out of the Front Range and take in some of the sights on the drive up.

But as far as today's opening-round playoff game against No. 16 Steamboat goes, Denmeade knows very little.

For Denmeade, Steamboat Springs High School's lacrosse team might as well be from overseas. The two squads face off at 5 p.m. today at Gardner Field.

"We're trying to get as much information as we can," the fifth-year varsity coach said Wednesday. "We've got that kind of barrier of mountains between the Mountain Conference and Denver. It's tough. We'll stick to our game plan. We hope we'll make small adjustments when we know something about a team. We don't venture too far from our game plan. We'll play our game and hope that's enough."

The Rangers - seeded 17th - come in as a team very similar to the Sailors. Lacrosse has been a sanctioned sport at Lewis-Palmer for six years. Denmeade said in the first couple of years, the team had to pull players from wherever it could. Now, the Rangers are starting to see the fruits of a growing youth lacrosse program that greatly increases players' stick skills.

Lewis-Palmer finished 9-6 overall this year and 6-1 in the Pikes Peak Conference. Steamboat ran through the Mountain Conference with a 13-0 record. Lewis-Palmer likely would have garnered a higher seed than 17 had it not fallen to eventual conference champion Air Academy, 10-9, in overtime.

"That was a big disappointment," Denmeade said. "But we beat some good quality teams. We had close games with good quality teams. : None of our losses came to teams that were below us. They were all ranked higher than us."

The Rangers have a dynamic first attack line led by the state's leading scorer. Lewis-Palmer attackman Brian Cole has put up video-game-like numbers this year. The senior has 62 goals and 41 assists in 15 games this season. He's flanked by Kyle Lindsay - another top scorer in the state - but the focus of most teams has been on Cole.

"He's a strong kid that's not afraid to take guys on," Denmeade said about the left-handed Cole. "He doesn't back down from bigger defenders. He's a very skilled player that's been around the game for six or seven years now. He's a captain and a leader on the field for us."

Denmeade wouldn't go as far as saying he considers his team the favorite. The Lewis-Palmer coach knows Steamboat coach Bob Hiester is well-connected among the high school lacrosse ranks and probably knows a lot about his team. Denmeade said his team will have to play well to win the game and in no way can overlook the Sailors. Still, both coaches sound confident coming into the game.

"We know we played good teams and beat good teams," Denmeade said. "But there is not a weak team that runs through their conference like Steamboat did. You don't do that being a weak team no matter what conference you're in. Our guys know the Mountain Conference is probably the weakest conference. But we've tried to keep them focused. We don't want them coming in with attitude that they're the top dog. That's the things that can get you in trouble."

"We're not intimidated," Hiester said. "I think part of that is a lot of these kids played against some Front Range teams last year, and I think they notice the difference between this year's team and last year's team."

The second round of the playoffs has to be played by Wednesday. The winner of today's game will be on the road in the second round.

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