LAKEWOOD -- Momentum is a finicky thing. It can be lost and regained in the blink of an eye.
Just ask Mullen’s boys lacrosse team, which watched a three-goal lead evaporate midway through the fourth quarter Wednesday in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. Columbine scored three unanswered goals to take its first lead, only for the Mustangs to answer right back with three of their own in less than three minutes.
That surge proved enough to send No. 10-seeded Mullen into the second round with an 8-6 victory over the No. 7 Rebels at Trailblazer Stadium.
“Any time you go down like that, it’s hard to get back up,” said Mullen senior Brady Brehm, who notched the game-winner. “We struggled with that through the year, but we had the sideline cheering us up and we had a lot of big guys step up. That really drove us forward.”
The Mustangs (8-8) move on to face No. 2 Regis Jesuit on Saturday. The Raiders (15-1) defeated Chaparral 13-3.
It was less than two weeks ago that Mullen saw Columbine force overtime with another fourth-quarter comeback before the Mustangs secured the 8-7 victory. On Wednesday, the team led 5-3 going into the final quarter before Columbine swung the momentum back in its favor. Anthony SanFilippo cut the deficit to one before Landon Kramer tied it up at 5-5 with nine minutes, 23 seconds remaining.
A few minutes later Tyler Goodwin gave the Rebels (11-5) their first lead, biding his time before taking a shot in front of the net and beating goalie Trey Taylor.
Mullen needed a little more than a minute to regain control though, as Nick Philips put in his second goal of the night. Brehm followed suit with his second score at the 4:03 mark, and David Corral added an insurance goal less than a minute later.
“We dodged real hard and moved it backside, and I was just there,” Brehm said. “I made my move, got inside and just finished.”
Mustangs coach Mitch Brin said another factor in the momentum swing was being able to control possession down the stretch.
“The big thing I think was our faceoff play. Alec Boyd at faceoff was able to control them and get possessions,” Brin said. “That can stop the momentum for a team, and it also can help it along.”
Matt Standley, Matt Lambright and Grant Alfred also scored for the Mustangs. Nick Stasch had two goals to pace Columbine and Jake Allen added another goal for the Rebels, who were shut out in the first half before putting three goals into the net in the third quarter and three more in the fourth.
The game was delayed 50 minutes because of lightning and hail after the first quarter, where Standley put Mullen up 1-0 with a score in the final 30 seconds of play. After sitting in the locker room for the better part of an hour, the two teams resumed play and Mustangs defenseman Lambright forced a turnover, picked up the ball and sprinted the length of the field before scoring.
“In the locker room the kids were really loose, almost too loose. We had to bring them back in with about five minutes to go,” Brin said. “You’re playing, really, 100 percent with a lot of intensity. Then you go in and sit around for about 45 minutes and have to come out of that and get right back up to 100 percent energy and focus, and they were able to do that.”
Regis Jesuit will present a stiff challenge for the Mustangs, who fell to the Raiders 13-5 back on April 2. Brin said his squad has shown some maturity after playing 16 games, adding that it’s important for the players to not be intimidated by who they are playing.
“Confidence and faith in ourselves -- that we play our game and play smart,” Brin said of the keys. “Not be intimidated by a really good team, a team that’s playing really well this year together and has some good talent.”