Luke Graham

Luke Graham

Luke Graham: Crucial change for prep lacrosse rules

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Luke Graham

Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Luke here.

— An honest assessment: Team state championships in Steamboat Springs are a dying breed.

That may not be what people want to hear, but ever since Steamboat Springs High School entered Class 4A, the Sailors have been at a disadvantage.

Steamboat’s enrollment is on the lower end of the class. The school could combine its enrollment with Hayden and Soroco high schools, in fact, and still be on the lower end of 4A.

Facing those numbers, a state championship for Steamboat would take a collection of unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime talent pulled from its comparatively small enrollment.

The 2009 football team almost did it, marching to the state championship game with a once-every-30-years type of team that had a ton of things go right.

A recent configuration change could mean the Sailors’ next best chance for a title will be on the lacrosse field.

The Colorado High School Activities Association decided in January that starting in spring 2013, state high school lacrosse will be split into two divisions, by enrollment, with one state title in each.

With the way things currently stand, Steamboat has a shot at winning its conference every year but faces steep competition in the playoffs from larger schools.

Enrollment at Cherry Creek, last year’s boys lacrosse champion: 3,448. Enrollment at Steamboat: 626.

Enrollment isn’t everything. Kent Denver consistently competes and has the most storied lacrosse program in the state. But the Sun Devils have one of the deepest, biggest feeder programs from which to pick.

The decision to split into two classifications and to allow teams like Kent Denver to petition up to 5A — or newer programs, down to 4A — gives Steamboat its best shot at a team state championship.

Accompanying enrollment is longevity and tradition at a school.

Steamboat has begun to emerge as a lacrosse school. The numbers in the lacrosse program are some of the strongest at the school.

The youth program Neill Redfern runs is top-notch and provides the Sailors with a great feeder program.

With the split in classifications, Steamboat will have one of the more defined programs in Class 4A.

The conference layout for 2013 is not finalized. But the Sailors should get good competition from teams currently in the Mountain Conference — teams such as Battle Mountain, Aspen and Summit, for example, could make up the new 4A’s best conference, along with Steamboat.

In the new playoff system, Steamboat likely will garner a top seed, home playoff games and an easier route to a championship game.

It’s not a guarantee that Steamboat will have an easy road to the playoffs, though.

The enrollment cutoff for the new split is at 1,410 students.

That still leaves several larger schools for Steamboat to compete with. Two years ago, Steamboat lost at home to Lewis-Palmer in the first round of the playoffs.

Lewis-Palmer most likely will end up in 4A, with an enrol­lment of 905 students.

But the ruling by CHSAA is a ground-breaking thing for the Sailors.

No longer should the goal be to win the conference and make the playoffs. Come spring 2013, Steamboat should think bigger.

The Sailors should set their sights on winning it all, something that at one point seemed like a long shot.

— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or e-mail lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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