MONUMENT — The weather was gloomy and only getting worse as the night went on. But Chaparral didn't seem bothered by it.
The Wolverines had too much to play for. They had too much at stake.
And in the end, a 9-8 win over Lewis-Palmer at Don Bresse Stadium fueled an emotional start to the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Wolverines (11-5 overall) were down a man all night. Not on the field, but in their hearts. Koby Stevens would have been a senior this season and would have been on the field for Wednesday's win. But he passed away two years ago.
Chaparral lost in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, so they knew they had to make this year count.
"We didn't talk about it today," Chaparral coach Kevin Graefe said. "But we talked about it periodically during the season."
But he added that they played this game for him. And it looked like it from the start.
They struck first on a Nichols Neff goal four and a half minutes into the first quarter. Dalton Ziegler got it back for the Rangers (14-2) about six minutes later.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Chaparral regained the lead on a laser shot 15 yards out from Trevor Orndoff. Jake McIntyre added one soon after and Lewis-Palmer was back on its heels.
"It was really important to get that fast start," Neff said.
The Rangers finally got some offense, albeit from the midfield, as Nate Bjurstrom scored back-to-back goals to even the score.
Each side added another before halftime.
Starting with another Neff goal in the third, the Wolverines grabbed a three-goal lead. Mullins had no choice but call timeout and calm his guys down.
"I learned in the first game against them (a 7-6 LP win) that we were going to be in a daggone fist fight with them," Rangers coach Dan Mullins said. "They're tough kids, they're very athletic."
Goals from Cade Ziegler and Andrew Manney regained the momentum for the Rangers and pulled them to within a goal. They had a prime chance to pull even as a penalty on Hunter Jacobson gave them a man advantage, but they were unable to capitalize on it.
Orndoff found the net again and seven seconds later, Brett Bolls added another one to give the Wolverines their second three-goal lead of the night.
As the clock ticked down, Manney and A.J. Barnes once again made it a one-goal game. Lewis-Palmer still had a chance. And they were once again with a man advantage. But as the penalty expired Ty Kaley rushed toward an unsuspecting Cade Ziegler, knocked the ball lose and recovered it to give the Wolverines possession.
"I saw him get that pass and I knew if I went hard enough, I would get it," Kaley said. "That's all I did and I got the ball."
The Rangers didn't get another look at the net and Chaparral was able to come away with the win, setting up a weekend showdown with No. 1 Cherry Creek.
"We're really excited," Neff said. "Especially since we get the chance to play such a great team like Creek. That'll be a big one for us."
It was Cherry Creek who beat Chaparral last year's first round. When the buzzer sounded and the score was final, the Wolverines were well aware of the matchup awaiting them and they are not lacking in confidence.
"We're going to have to be real solid on offense and defense," Kaley said. "But I think we can get them."