LAKEWOOD — Making the transition from Class 4A to 5A in boys lacrosse hasn’t been an issue for Valor Christian this season.
The Eagles — No. 3 in the latest CHSAANow.com 5A boys lacrosse rankings — wrapped up an undefeated run in the 5A Jeffco League on Monday night with a 11-9 victory over Columbine.
“It means a lot,” Valor first-year head coach Josh Hoffman said of the Eagles claiming the Jeffco League crown in their first year in 5A. “That first year in 5A you don’t really know what you are going to walk into.”
Valor (14-0, 7-0 in 5A Jeffco) hasn’t dropped a game this season and was No. 2 in the RPI rankings before the conference finale win over Columbine (8-6, 5-2).
Valor won back-to-back 4A state titles in 2016 and 2017 under then head coach and lacrosse legend John Grant Jr. Last season the Eagles’ state championship run ended with a loss in the state quarterfinals to Dawson.
“As a team we just kind of wanted to send a message saying that we can hang here too,” Valor senior Lance Tillman said. “It’s awesome to get a team win. Coach Hoffman has been setting us up for this the whole year. He is doing great things for this program.”
Tillman did great things on the field against Columbine. The attacker who is headed to the University of North Carolina next fall to play lacrosse scored six goals. Tillman has 28 goals on the season to go along with his 20-plus assists.
“Lance is obviously a very talented player. He has drive like no kid I’ve ever seen,” Hoffman said. “You only get looks from people like Coach Breschi (University of North Carolina men’s lacrosse coach Joe Breschi) unless you work hard and are committed to your craft.”
Columbine came into the league finale after a pair of strong games in victories over Ralston Valley and Dakota Ridge last week. The Rebels never led, but closed the Eagles’ lead to 7-6 midway through the third quarter.
Columbine senior attacker Taylor Gustafson scored four straight goals of the Rebels, but Tillman put three goals into the back of the net in the final six minutes of the third quarter. Valor pushed it lead back up to 11-7 headed to the fourth quarter.
“Columbine is the one we have kind of talked about since the beginning of our season,” said Hoffman after the game that would decide the conference title. “We weren’t looking past anyone, but at the same time we knew Columbine was a great team.”
The Rebels got fourth quarter goals by sophomore Justin Bodie and junior Tanner Hollens, but it wasn’t enough for Columbine that is on the bubble to make the 16-team state tournament.
Columbine has a big non-league game against No. 2 Cherry Creek at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 1, at Legacy Stadium that could determine the playoff fate.
Valor closes out the regular season at home against Holy Family on Saturday, May 4.
“For us it’s everything,” Tillman said heading into the postseason. “The regular season means nothing if we don’t play good in the playoffs. We are really focused on that now.”