DENVER — Valor Christian boys lacrosse controlled the entirety of the second quarter — including a 9-0 run that spanned into the third — of the Class 4A championship game en route to their second-straight title.
"We were worried about this game. We needed to play 48 minutes to get these guys and for the most part I thought we really did," Valor Christian coach John Grant Jr. said. "For 45 minutes, we worked as hard as we could, the cohesion was good, they communicated well, and they just worked. We really stressed for each one of them to win their matchup individually, and then the team would take care of itself."
Valor Christian beat Dawson 20-12 on Friday to repeat as champion. The 20 goals are the most ever scored by a single team in a boys lacrosse title game, and the 32 combined tallies make it the highest-scoring championship matchup in the sport's history.
"It means a lot," Grant Jr. said of the title. "I know we have a very talented squad and we really put a gameplan together in September and it's all these guys. They played incredibly well."
Minutes into the second quarter, Dawson's Mac Zee knotted the game up at 4-4.
But, Eric Pacheco didn't let that last long as Pacheco took the ball off the ensuing faceoff for a goal to give Valor Christian a lead yet again in a back-and-forth battle.
The Eagles put an end to the blow-for-blow scoring as Ben Seidlin netted an absolutely stunning goal to push the Valor Christian lead to 6-4.
Then, Lance Tillman put his second and third goals of the game past Dawson goalie Dawson Santangelo and the Eagles had all the momentum. Tillman ended with four goals and four assists.
"That was a huge momentum shift," Tillman said. "We really felt it there, and we just rallied behind that. This means everything. It's the best feeling in the world, honestly."
Valor Christian led 10-4 going into halftime after a 6-0 run including Sean Traynor's and Grayson Goodyear's back-to-back goals in the final minute of the first half.
And the Eagles just didn't stop. They poured it on in the second half to extend the run to 8-0, scoring two goals in the first 35 seconds of the third quarter — Austin Saupe and Pacheco.
"We've had those runs all year and I was worried that we weren't going to get one of those tonight," Grant Jr. said. "But, even in the semifinal we went on a 9-0 run when we were tied. That's an incredible squad, I'm honored to coach them. The boys kept saying, 'Coach don't worry, we got this. We'll play 48 for each other.' And they did."
Goodyear pushed the run to 9-0 before Zee put an end to it to make the game 13-5. Zee ended with four goals.
Valor Christian put an end to the hopes of a comeback with goals from Gianni Orlando and Montana McLaughlin.
Valor Christian scored time and time again on opportunities off of Dawson turnovers.
"The defense that we put in really caused turnovers," Tillman said. "The coaches prepared us super well."
Traynor's goal in the beginning of the fourth quarter gave the Eagles a running clock.
Dawson won the first matchup this season vs. Valor Christian. The Eagles lost 11-10 at home.
"I think the difference was the atmosphere. We were ready to go," Tillman said. "We came out from the whistle and we just bonded as a team and we really came together to pull it out."
The last two games between the teams were decided by a single goal. This game was decided by eight goals.
"High school kids, man, you never know. Guys step up and the moment gets to people," Grant Jr. said. "We were really focused on a few of their players and trying to nullify what they do and I thought our defense played incredibly well. A freshman goalie stepping up on a stage like this is pretty impressive.
"I'm really proud of our guys for finishing. We talked about 48 minutes to finish the job and they did."
Saupe scored just before the end of the first quarter to give Valor Christian its first lead of the day — a 3-2 advantage.
Dawson jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with goals from Gavyn Pure and Asher Walker. Pure gave three goals in the loss.
McLaughlin stopped the early momentum with a goal for the Eagles, Tillman added one of his own to even the score.
"That's coach (Grant Jr.)'s offense," Tillman said. "He really knows what he's doing. He got us there."
Pure gave Dawson a short-lived lead before Saupe tied things up. Moments later, Saupe did it again.
Dawson's Hunter Watts ended with three goals.
Valor Christian had never won a boys lacrosse title until last year.
Now, the Eagles have two CHSAA boys lacrosse championship trophies in their case.