ENGLEWOOD — Cheyenne Mountain sophomore attackman Kevin Papa had practiced that simple move in his backyard countless times. Make a sharp cut to receive a pass and fire a shot on frame.
On Tuesday evening, his countless hours of practice came to fruition when he netted three goals, including game-winner with 48.2 seconds remaining to top Evergreen 5-4 at Englewood High School.
The Indians (13-1) completed a hectic comeback with three goals in the fourth quarter to defeat Evergreen (12-2) to claim the school’s second title in the last three years after the 2020 season was canceled.
“It’s like in the backyard growing up,” Papa said. “Every play you’re like ‘this is the game-winner’ and every shot I’d take in the backyard, it finally paid off. I was just putting it on cage, shooting for space.”
Papa’s hat-trick didn’t come without its fair share of missed chances from the Indians, though. After a strong first half in which Cheyenne Mountain controlled possession and took a 2-1 heading into halftime, Evergreen wasn’t without its chances on attack, which included a would-be tying goal from Zach Hanson that was waived off because of a crease violation. The Cougars locked down the Cheyenne Mountain attack for more than two quarters and the drought finally came to an end in the fourth quarter, out of desperation.
Cougars’ senior Jack Fairbanks set the tone at the face-off circle in the third quarter and was instrumental in the comeback.
“Lacrosse is a game of peaks and valleys and when we were in a valley, we knew we couldn’t get discouraged and we climbed out of it,” said Evergreen head coach Jay Egger.
Evergreen put three away in the third, including two in seven seconds, which gave the Cougars a 3-2 lead, as Nash Carroll scored to tie the game, while Jack Fairbanks after he sprinted down the field and scored. Connor Dries also added a fourth early in the final frame that extended the Cougars’ lead to two.
The Indians stormed back shortly later. Wyatt Furda turned CMHS’ deficit into one after he picked up a ground ball and scored on a man-advantage, while Papa tied the game with 3:39 left.
The Indians had one last opportunity coming out of a timeout with 1:42 left.
Evergreen had one last look which went to leading goal-scorer Ben Crosbie, but his shot went just wide.
“It wasn’t the night we wanted and it’s bittersweet because we’ve been playing with each other since second grade,” Crosbie said. “We had momentum in the third and fourth, and we had a goal that was ruled out, but we fought until the end.”
Cougars goalie Andrew Morris made six saves in the loss, while Matty Kelleher had eight.
For Papa and Cheyenne Mountain, they’ll be practicing that simple act of cutting and shooting in the backyard for years to come.
CM — 2 — 0 — 0 — 3
EV — 1 — 0 — 2 — 1
Goals: CM — Papa (3); Wyatt Furda, Hank Walsh.
Assists — Mitchell Paige, Zach Lewis, three unassisted
EV: Jard Stiller, Nash Carroll, Jack Fairbanks,
Assists — Carter Cassin, Ben Crosbie.
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