Steamboat Springs No pressure, but the defining moment in a young Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse program takes place Saturday.
When the team opens the state playoffs at 2:30 p.m. against Rock Canyon at Gardner Field, the progression of the growth of a program will be on display.
Each year the Steamboat program has been around, it has advanced on an upward trend. But when the 16th-seeded Sailors battle the No. 17 Jaguars, it could be a telling sign of whether the program’s incline is continuing.
For the third straight year, Steamboat garnered the No. 16 seed and a home playoff game. Two years ago, the team lost 16-11 to Lewis-Palmer. Last year, it was a 12-11 loss to Fairview.
So this year, does Steamboat have to win to show it’s still improving?
“There’s no question,” Steamboat coach Bob Hiester said. “We don’t want the complete success of our season to come down to one game, but for the program to progress, we have to start moving forward in the playoffs.”
A win would mark the first playoff victory in Steamboat’s history — but what a task it will be. The Jaguars spent a good portion of the season ranked as a top-10 team. They beat the Sailors, 11-7, in March, a game where Rock Canyon led 9-3 going into the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars also feature one of Colorado’s top attackmen in Wilkins Dismuke. Just a sophomore and already popping up as an intriguing recruit, Dismuke has scored and accounted for 96 points, including an eye-popping 60 goals.
“One, it’s his athletic ability. Two, it’s his lacrosse IQ, and three, it’s the standard that he sets for himself and the team at large,” Jaguars coach Louis Goldin said. “He elevates everyone else’s game around him. He’s a relatively rare player that you get.”
But what can be gleaned from a game that took place almost two months ago? Steamboat certainly is better. The team lost its last four games to Front Range teams, including three playoff teams, by a combined five goals.
“I think we’re building up to a win this year seeing as how we’ve done the last couple years,” said defenseman John Burrow, who will be tasked with trying to slow down Dismuke. “I think after how we played against other Denver teams this year, we need a win this year to prove we belong.”
Goldin, who said his team wasn’t upset with the seedings despite beating Steamboat once, said the key would be which team could treat Saturday as just another game. The game, Hiester said, will come down to who wins the possession battle. Hiester said that Rock Canyon can score goals in bunches and that his team would have to maintain a consistent, but calm, effort throughout.
“We’re excited for it,” Hiester said. “It’s just another great opportunity for us.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com