Sailors lax ends skid against Aspen, hosts state’s No. 3 Saturday | SteamboatToday.com

Sailors lax ends skid against Aspen, hosts state’s No. 3 Saturday

Austin Colbert

— Sandwiched between two other highly ranked opponents this week, Friday's game against rival Aspen proved surprisingly difficult for the Steamboat Springs High School boys' lacrosse team to get amped about.

Maybe the Sailors, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, were still recuperating from Wednesday's win against No. 8 Thompson Valley; or maybe they were too focused on Saturday's impending challenge against No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain.

Either way, the intensity wasn't always there in an 8-5 win against the No. 9-ranked Skiers at Gardner Field.

"Both teams are going to be up for it. I think they came out a little more up for it than we did today," Steamboat coach Jay Lattimore said. "We weren't as up as we were against Thompson Valley, but we were able to sneak away with it, which is good."

Aspen (3-3) is the defending 4A state champion and had won three straight games against Steamboat. That first win, which came in the 2013 season, was the first Mountain League loss in SSHS history and ended a streak of 39 consecutive victories dating back to the league's creation in 2009.

The Sailors needed their best defensive performance of the season to keep it from being four straight losses, especially considering the eight goals they scored amounted to their lowest offensive output of 2016.

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"I didn't really think our offense was having too much problem. Their goalie was just making some great saves," SSHS senior Jackson Draper said. "But, we were getting good looks. We just needed time for the game to settle in, and then, we took it to them."

Both goalies were so on point Friday that neither team scored in the first period. The game's first goal came early in the second quarter, with Draper's unassisted laser giving the Sailors the 1-0 advantage.

Aspen rattled off back-to-back goals soon after to take the lead. Steamboat senior Tait Dixson quickly tied the game again, but Aspen's Burke Daily found net with only 13 seconds remaining in the quarter to give the Skiers a 3-2 halftime lead.

"You got to give them credit," Lattimore said of Aspen. "They were just well-prepared, and they've seen our offense quite a bit — more than other teams. I think they had a good game plan, and the goalie playing great definitely helps out."

Daily scored again early in the third quarter to put the Sailors in a 4-2 hole. But midway through the quarter, penalties began to mount against the Skiers, and Steamboat was able to take advantage to get back into the game.

After sophomore Davis Petersen cut it to 4-3 and Steamboat was able to kill off its own penalty, Aspen was hit with a two-minute unreleaseable penalty. With the man advantage, Dixson tied the game, and less than a minute later, senior Drew Williamson scored again to give Steamboat a 5-4 lead heading to the final quarter.

"We definitely capitalized, and our man-down (defense) did great today, too," Lattimore said.

Williamson extended the lead to 6-4 with nine minutes to play, and Draper made it 7-4 with three minutes remaining. Aspen got one back a minute later, which Draper returned in kind with 42 seconds left to finish off the Skiers.

"Especially against Aspen, I just think that's a big deal for the organization," Draper said of the win. "We haven't beat them in four years, and that's just huge. They are the defending state champions. It's just a big win."

Now, Steamboat (6-2), winners of five straight, will tango with No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain at 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Gardner Field. The Indians are also 6-2 and are coming off a 13-8 loss to top-ranked Dawson last weekend.

"We didn't play our best game last year. We feel we can definitely hang with them," Lattimore said, referencing a 13-4 loss to Cheyenne Mountain in 2015. "They are known for having very big midfielders, and they play a zone defense, which is a little different, but we feel pretty confident with our practices against the zone that it should be a good game."

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert

If you go

What: No. 7 Steamboat boys lacrosse (6-2) vs. No. 3 Cheyenne Mountain (6-2)

When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Gardner Field