Matchup against defending state champ not just another game for Cheyenne Mountain boys' lacrosse

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Photo - The Cheyenne Mountain boys lacrosse team is hoping to make it to the state finals this year. Last year they made it to the semifinals. The team runs sprints during a practice on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)
The Cheyenne Mountain boys lacrosse team is hoping to make it to the state finals this year. Last year they made it to the semifinals. The team runs sprints during a practice on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

For many high school students, spring break is a time to relax.

Not for the Cheyenne Mountain boys' lacrosse team.

Last week, the coaches and players took a four-day trip to San Diego to play games against two competitive out-of-state squads and train with Navy SEALs, all in an effort to build stronger team chemistry and bond.

The Indians topped St. Augustine of San Diego 16-8 before losing 8-5 to San Marcos.

That loss dropped Cheyenne Mountain to 5-1, but it also put this season in perspective: To shake off three straight state semifinal losses and advance to the Class 4A title game for the first time, the Indians must put themselves out there.

"We are connected on the character of the brotherhood," said Cheyenne Mountain coach Mike Paige, who has taken his program on out-of-state spring break trips to California or Washington, D.C., for the past six years. "That we travel together, that we play together, that we support one another, that we're a really tight community that's based on character."

Perhaps their biggest test so far this season comes Wednesday, when the Indians play at Valor Christian, the team that beat them 17-8 in last year's state semifinals, in Highlands Ranch. The Eagles have won the title the past two seasons, and made it to the state's biggest stage three straight times.

Wednesday is not just another game.

The last time Cheyenne Mountain beat Valor Christian was May 3, 2014, when the Indians won 11-4. Since then, the Eagles have owned the series 5-0.

Peak Performer
The Cheyenne Mountain boys lacrosse team is hoping to make it to the state finals this year. Last year they made it to the semifinals. Evan Carter passes a ball during a practice drill on Monday, April 2, 2018. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette) 

"We're ready to put them down for the first time in a while," said Cheyenne Mountain senior Zach Reddish, a long-stick middie. "We're ready to get in there and play."

His coach came short of labeling it one of the team's biggest games of the year.

"We're not putting all of our eggs in the Valor game Wednesday," Paige said, "but it certainly is a measuring stick of where we're at in the season. And I think that's an important gauge in what we need to improve and how we're standing."

The Indians opened the season with five straight victories. And they did it mostly without August Johnson, a senior midfielder who signed to play at Air Force next season. He suffered a concussion during Cheyenne Mountain's season opener against Ralston Valley and missed the next two games, but the Indians managed to beat Palmer and Windsor with a combined score of 27-5.

"It was a good opportunity to watch those guys step up and prove to the other team and us and themselves that they belong on our team," Reddish said, "and that we just don't rely on August to win games. Our team, across the board, is so strong."

"We have threats coming out at every angle."

Their stats prove this point. Senior Jack Egan leads the team with 12 goals, while senior Jack Paul and junior Wiley Burkett each has recorded 11. James LaCerte is right behind them with 10.

Meanwhile, Johnson has knocked in nine goals in just four games.

"It was a really learning lesson not to have August there, to some degree," Paige said, "because they had to step in the void and they did more than step in the void. They took advantage of the opportunity and that made the whole team better."

But the Indians aren't serious all the time. They find ways to have some fun.

They formed stronger bonds by attending a college basketball game together, dining together and exploring Southern California together.

One night, the boys built a bonfire at the beach and then the seniors jumped into the Pacific Ocean.

"A little cold but worth it," Reddish said.