Warrior helmets came off as gloves and sticks sailed into the sky when the final horn sounded ending the Class 5A state boys lacrosse championship game that saw Arapahoe defeat Cherry Creek, 10-7.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world, even better than the feeling when we won our first state title last year,” Warrior senior Michael Babb said after the game. “We gave it our all and it is a great way to end my high school career.”
The game was a hard-fought battle from the opening faceoff.
Arapahoe's Tyler Widlund put the Warriors on the board with a goal about half way through the first quarter. Cherry Creek then countered with a pair of first-quarter goals to take the lead and the Bruins outscored Arapahoe 3-1 in the second quarter for a 5-2 halftime lead.
Cherry Creek built their scoring advantage with aggressive play that kept the ball in the Arapahoe end of the field much of the first half. The Bruins patiently worked the ball around until there was an opening and then pressed the attack, totaling about a dozen shots on goal.
The tempo changed dramatically in the second half as Arapahoe scored three goals in the first six minutes to tie the score. Cherry Creek scored to regain the lead at 6-5 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
But Arapahoe came storming back and scored four goals in the final four minutes of the quarter to take a 9-6 lead. Each team scored a fourth-quarter goal in the fourth quarter so the final score was 10-7.
“We played a little soft in the first half and weren't playing as a team,” Arapahoe coach Guy Cerasoli said after the game. “I told the kids we needed to work together instead of standing around watching while one guy attacks the net against six defenders.”
Cerasoli said he knew it would be a tough game because he knew Cherry Creek was a quality, well-coached team.
“Being behind at halftime helped get everyone fired up, too,” the coach said. “We have been a second-half team all season. Over and over, we'd dig ourselves a hole early but battle back to win just like we did today.”
He said the defense has been a team strength all season. The coach said, in the second half, the defenders moved out further from the goal put pressure on the Bruin with the ball, shut down passing lanes and were able to force turnovers.
Warrior senior Babb said the team knew at halftime they were about to start the final two quarters of lacrosse in the season so it was time to step it up and push the tempo of the game in order to win the game.
“We gave it our all in that second half,” he said. “On attack, they pushed the tempo with repeated attacks and that seem to put them back on their heels while our defenders basically closed down their offense.”
Babb was the leading scorer for Arapahoe with three goals and three assists while teammates Kiley O'Connor and Zach Runberg had two goals each. Defensively, Warrior goalie Ryan Smith made six saves.
Cherry Creek spread the scoring around and junior Ryan Arthur was the team scoring leader with two goals and two assists.