Wild rally falls just short for Sailors | SteamboatToday.com

Wild rally falls just short for Sailors

— In the end, the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team was left Wednesday with the idea that it didn’t quit, that even though things repeatedly seemed to degenerate to “why bother” dire, it managed a wild, unexpected charge that nearly won the game.

In that, the Sailors found some satisfaction, despite their utter disappointment at a 16-15 loss Wednesday on the road at Windsor in the first round of the Class 4A boys lacrosse playoffs.

“Even though we didn’t win and we won’t go on to the championship, we built a brotherhood,” senior Mitch McCannon said. “I’m glad we were out there to play instead of giving up.”

It was possession that doomed the Sailors, 9-7 and the No. 9 seed in the tournament, to their most average record since 2011.

No. 8 Windsor controlled it, and thus controlled the game, thanks in large part to two major scoring spurts, both of which seemed surely to be knockout blows for a Steamboat team that’s struggled against elite competition all season and that lost 10-6 to Windsor a month ago.

First, the Wizards blew open a two-goal game with four unanswered scores late in the first half and in the opening moments of the second.

Steamboat picked itself up after that, but Windsor did it again in the fourth quarter, turning another two-goal lead into a 16-11 advantage with 6 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Windsor did it first by controlling the face-offs, especially early in the game. Steamboat, meanwhile, supplemented that with a steady flow of turnovers.

Windsor underscored its last rally by scoring twice in less than 10 seconds, celebrating in front of Steamboat’s goal, the game in hand.

“At times, we were awesome with the ball and we looked like the team I know we are,” Steamboat senior Ryan Musselman said. “We had to be that team all the time, and today, we weren’t.”

But, even down five with less than four minutes remaining, Steamboat didn’t quit, and that gave the Sailors a chance in the game that moments before seemed impossible.

Steamboat’s Drew Williamson scored his third goal of the game with 3:37 remaining, and Willy Gunn and Jackson Draperr, also adding his third, tallied their own goals in the next 60 seconds, suddenly making it 16-14.

Then Steamboat got a little lucky. Windsor keeper Colton Ferris came up with a great save, but the ball bounced away into a crowd, then into the goal, cutting the lead to one.

The Sailors even got a chance to tie, getting possession on an illegal pick call with 14.2 seconds remaining.

“I didn’t even want to look,” said Wizards’ senior Hunter Hop, who led his team with five goals. “My heart was beating out of my chest.”

One final turnover sealed Steamboat’s fate.

Steamboat finished the season on a slide, losing its final three games.

For the first time since 2012, the Sailors failed to win at least one game in the state playoffs. They’ve pushed as far as the semifinals each of the last two seasons, but that streak is snapped as well.

They were left Wednesday with a loss, heart-wrenching but thrilling, thanks to that one final, furious charge.

“Every kid wanted it,” said Steamboat senior Willy Gunn, moments after his final game in a career that encompassed the best seasons in the program’s history.

He had two goals Wednesday.

“Some of the ground balls and calls didn’t go our way, but I’m proud of this team,” he said. “We gave it our all until the end, and that’s all you can ask for.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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