DENVER — It turns out that August Johnson wasn't done yet. The Cheyenne Mountain senior and Air Force Academy commit made a dramatic return to the Indians' lineup for the Class 4A state championship game.
And the result will go down in Cheyenne Mountain legend.
Johnson scored two goals, including the game winner, to help the Indians beat Dawson 8-6 to claim its first state boys lacrosse championship.
"It's unbelievable," Johnson said. "Three years coming to this. It's like a movie ending."
It's been an emotional roller coaster ride worthy of a Hollywood script, that's for sure. Injuries forced Johnson to the Cheyenne Mountain bench for a third of the season, forcing the Indians (15-4 overall) to learn how to win without him.
"It was really important for us," coach Mike Paige said. "August is such a dominant personality and such a dominant physical specimen that the other guys were playing in his shadow. When he went out, initially the team was in shock."
But they learned to grind out wins and they learned they were successful, even without their star. They learned over their three playoff wins heading into Friday that they were a championship-level team.
Earlier this week, Johnson had been medically cleared and started taking steps to returning to the lineup. He didn't in the semifinal win over Aspen, but when pregame warmups started at Mile High, he was in full uniform and ready to roll.
"(It felt like) getting ready for battle," Johnson said. "Everyone doubted. Everyone always doubted us as just a school from Colorado Springs."
No longer. But it was far from a sure thing.
Gavyn Pure put the Mustangs (17-2) on the board four minutes into the game, scoring an unassisted goal from the left side of the Cheyenne net.
After Jack Shams buried a shot with one second left in the quarter, Pure added another goal to make it a 3-0, giving all the indications that this game would play out like Dawson's 10-3 win over Indians earlier this season.
But Jack Paul ended the shutout with 6:45 left in the second. That goal was followed by one from Johnson who suited up for the first time since April 9 against Thompson Valley.
Jack Egan added a spectacular goal for the Indians with one second left in the half.
Shams scored the first goal of the second half, pushing the Mustangs lead back to two goals, But the Indians got responses from Cole Mika and Ike Eastburn to send the game into the fourth quarter tied 5-5.
"We came out with some nerves," Egan said. "This is the biggest stadium we've ever seen. All the nerves that were present slowed us down early."
Shams got the lead back for Dawson with 3:58 left in the game, but Egan struck for Cheyenne Mountain just 11 seconds later.
And then Johnson found the net again and Cheyenne had its first lead of the game.
"Without him tonight, I think the circumstances would've been a little bit different," Egan said. "We all played together and I think that was the biggest part of it."
Cheyenne added another goal for to pad the lead, but Johnson's game-winner held up, giving him and his teammates an ending worthy of Hollywood ink.
"I can't imagine the whole thing and then him doing that," Paige said. "It was amazing."
And it will be something talked about in the hallways at Cheyenne Mountain for years to come.