DENVER - A 13-7 lead for the Ponderosa Mustangs was slowly being eaten away. The defending Class 4A boys lacrosse champions, the Wheat Ridge Farmers, had found themselves in quite the hole, but had shown before that they had the talent to climb out of it.
But Patrick Tierney's Mustangs had too much resolve and in the end, would hold on 13-11 to take the 4A title in what many would call a major upset in Colorado high school lacrosse.
"If you watch, you knew that they needed each other," Tierney said of his team. "They worked hard the whole game. They turned to each other, they passed when they had to and they didn't try to take it on themselves."
It was all the more impressive considering the Farmers scored 54 seconds into the contest to take a quick 1-0 lead. After winning their first two playoff games by a combined score of 22-12, a quick start was anything but a surprise.
The 1-0 score would hold for over seven minutes before the Mustangs were able to shake their cobwebs and get the ball by Farmers goalie Jensen Makarov. Ponderosa's ability to tie the game also came as little surprise.
Where the surprise came in was how the Mustangs converted another goal 20 seconds and yet another with 14 seconds left in the first quarter -- both at the hands of senior captain Blake Bruner -- to take a 3-1 lead.
"It's a game of runs and we knew that coming in," Bruner said. "Everyone contributed so much and that got our momentum going and we just kept with it and we knew we would get some runs and they would get some too. We just made sure to get ours going real quick."
The Farmers wouldn't quit and battle back to cut the lead down to one goal thanks to goals by John Roach and Dylan Mechling. But just as it appeared Wheat Ridge had seized some momentum, the Mustangs went on a run of four straight goals to build a 7-3 lead.
The momentum had clearly shifted and it showed when Makarov lost the ball trying to clear it, allowing Austin Bullock to scoop it up and put it in the net for the Mustangs' seventh goal of the game. Once again, the Farmers tried to fight their way back, but Ponderosa struck with another run, scoring four goals in a span where Wheat Ridge could only muster one. Junior Jack Griffin had three-straight goals for the Mustangs to increase their lead to 11-6.
"We definitely didn't have anything to lose, they're going to 5A next year and we sent them to 5A in style," Griffin said. "I felt like we were the underdogs and I've played Wheat Ridge a number times and never beaten them before so I think our team just wanted it more today."
The scoring for the Mustangs slowed to a crawl in the fourth quarter, just at Wheat Ridge redoubled their efforts. Ponderosa held a 13-7 lead with 6:49 to go in the game, but would soon get put back on their heels. As the seconds ticked away, so the did the Mustangs' lead. John Roach added another and senior Tyler Knott added two more as the Farmers pulled to within two goals.
The momentum appeared to be with the Farmers, but with 52 seconds left in the game Roach was called for a cross-check, giving the Mustangs a one-man advantage for the remainder of the game. They were able to control the ball for that last minute, taking down arguably the best 4A lacrosse team of all-time.
"I think we had enough players on the field that when we had a chance we executed," Tierney said. "And by executing, we were able to keep them at a distance but we got into some trouble with penalties and that late in the game it was tough to fight off. But it was a great win, I'm so happy for them. They worked hard for it; they worked hard for three years, most of these guys."