No. 9 Columbine boys lacrosse hoping to net playoff berth

ARVADA — Columbine football coach Andy Lowry doesn’t have to worry … Tanner Hollens has no intention of focusing solely on lacrosse anytime soon.

“I’m going to stick with both sports,” Hollens said with a smile after scoring four goals in a span of less than three minutes Wednesday night. “I love them both.”

Ralston Valley junior Ben Takata (11) tries to maintain control of the ball despite the efforts of Columbine defender Cody Heston (6) on Wednesday night at NAAC. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

The attacker on the lacrosse field is more well-known for his actions on the football field. The running back for the Rebels during the fall has racked up more than 2,500 yards rushing and scored 31 touchdowns during his sophomore and junior seasons on the gridiron.

“Tanner is definitely a football player, but he loves lacrosse,” Columbine boys lacrosse coach Henry Sulzbacher said of the two-sport athlete. “He loves being out here playing. It’s awesome. He is just a competitor.”

Hollens rushed for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries the last time he was in helmet facing Ralston Valley at the North Area Athletic Complex during the football season. He had way against the Mustangs again in a must-win Class 5A Jeffco League boys lacrosse game.

The junior’s scoring spree helped Columbine cruise to a 13-1 victory over Ralston Valley at the NAAC. Hollens scored three goals in the span of less than a minute to close out the second quarter, giving the Rebels (7-5, 4-1 in 5A Jeffco) a 7-1 lead at halftime.

Columbine attacker Taylor Gustafson tries to pass the ball to a teammate while on the ground and with Ralston Valley junior Ryan Diesslin covering him. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“I just knew we had to step it up,” Hollens said of sparking what would be 11 unanswered goals by the Rebels. “That first quarter we were kind of slow.”

Columbine — No. 9 in the current CHSAANow.com 5A boys lacrosse rankings — couldn’t afford another loss in conference play. A 9-8 loss to Lakewood two days early at Trailblazer Stadium put Valor Christian (13-0, 6-0) in the driver’s seat to claim the league title and automatic berth into the 16-team state tournament.

“That wasn’t our best game of the season for sure,” Hollens said of the one-goal loss to Lakewood. “We just have to keep winning and hopefully make the playoffs. We’ve got a tough schedule ahead, but I think we can do it.”

Columbine finishes out league play against Dakota Ridge (Friday, April 26) and Valor (Monday, April 29). Both games will be at Trailblazer Stadium in Lakewood.

Sulzbacher admitted he will be rooting hard for Wheat Ridge to knock of Lakewood coming up on Friday. That could set up a three-way tie for the league title if Columbine defeats undefeated Valor on Monday.

Columbine needs to defeat Dakota Ridge and Valor to wrap up its conference schedule for any hope to win the 5A Jeffco League title. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)

“Who knows how the RPI is going to shake out,” Sulzbacher said. “We are in the playoffs right now, but Valor doesn’t matter unless we take care of business against Dakota Ridge. Right now it’s all about Dakota Ridge.”

Columbine was No. 22 in the RPI standings before games Wednesday. Close losses to No. 7 ranked Regis Jesuit, Chaparral, No. 5 ranked Kent Denver and Lakewood could come back to haunt the Rebels if they don’t make the postseason.

Sulzbacher hopes the strong performance against Ralston Valley (6-6, 1-4) can carryover to the end of the regular season that also includes a non-league game against No. 1 Cherry Creek on May 1.

“We looked good today,” Sulzbacher said. “Guys were playing hard. The vibe was different today and that was good.”

Columbine junior Tanner Hollens splits Ralston Valley freshmen Nick Gates (19) and Lane Kellogg (20) during the first half Wednesday at the NAAC. Hollens scored four goals in less than three minutes during the Rebels' 13-1 victory. (Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Athletics)