Huskies defeat Sailors to help their playoff drive
EDWARDS — Theoretically, the 16-team 4A boys lacrosse playoffs begin next week, but don’t tell that to Battle Mountain.
The Huskies believed the playoffs started nearly two weeks ago and that each of the final four games of the regular season has been a postseason game, including their 11-6 win against Steamboat Springs on Tuesday.
“Summit’s a must win,” Huskies senior Zane Hensel said, referring to Battle Mountain’s regular-season finale against Summit County on Thursday. “That’s our round of 32.”
The Huskies (6-8 overall and 5-4 in the Western Conference) entered Tuesday’s game holding down the 16th and final spot in the omnipresent rating-percentage index, so it seems right to consider that the playoffs have started early.
Not only did Battle Mountain help its postseason chances, but Steamboat Springs’ loss clinched the Western Conference for the Vail Mountain School.
“We’ve got to shake this one off,” Sailors coach Jay Lattimore said. “We usually have a tough game after spring break. Luckily, we have two big practices to prepare for Vail (Mountain School). We just have to have a really short memory of this one.”
That’s because the Sailors, who entered No. 13 in the RPI, host VMS on Friday and play the Gore Rangers in East Vail on Saturday.
Huskies in their groove
The Huskies started the season by losing six out of their first seven, including an 11-7 defeat at the hands of the Sailors at Gardner Field on March 30. After dropping to 3-8 with a loss to state-power Alexander Dawson nearly two weeks ago, Battle Mountain viewed its final four games as win or go home.
Helping the cause in this final kick is health. The Huskies are getting playing back on the field and have a renewed work ethic.
One of those players who missed time was Jeremy Sforzo, who went off against the Sailors on Tuesday to the tune of six goals and three assists.
“Jeremy was good,” said the Huskies’ Cal Masler, who had two goals of his own. “It was fun to give him the ball. I would take a dodge and I would see him open. It’s easy to give him a shot because I know he’ll capitalize on it.”
Tied 2-2 after one quarter, Battle Mountain took over the game during the next two stanzas. Masler, Sforzo twice and Charlie Morrow gave the Huskies a 6-3 advantage at the half. Battle Mountain blew it open in the third quarter. Tom Boyne, Sforzo, Tucker and Charlie Morrow found the net.
Helping Battle Mountain’s cause has been the switch to Hensel for faceoffs and better coverage of ground balls.
“Just flat. Overall, a flat game,” Lattimore said. “(Battle Mountain) just took the wind. They got the momentum and went with it. They did a good job.”
Davis Peterson had a hat trick, while Tyler Doyne and Max Lynch each scored for the Sailors (7-6, 6-3).
All this made for a great Senior Night for Hensel, Masler, Wyatt Perkins and Erikson Hirn.
Down the stretch
Steamboat seems to have more leeway when it comes to locking up a playoff berth. All five of the Sailors nonconference games have been against teams — Aspen, Thompson Valley, Cheyenne Mountain, Golden and Windsor — that would be in the playoffs were the season to end immediately.
With its final two games against VMS (11-1 entering Tuesday’s game), Steamboat’s opponents’ winning percentage, 50 percent of the RPI, should remain strong.
“I don’t want to jinx us. We played a great out-of-conference schedule,” Lattimore said. “Hopefully that goes noticed. We’ve got to win two games.”
Meanwhile, Battle Mountain heads over the pass on Thursday to try to avenge a 9-6 loss to Summit County. While nothing is assured, the Huskies are enjoying their new lease on life after a tough start.
“It’s so much fun,” Huskies coach Jerry Nichols said. “It makes the season so much more enjoyable for our coaches, players and fans. We’re digging it.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.