Mustangs win lacrosse title

Ponderosa best Wheat Ridge for state 4A championship

Tom Munds
Fans in the stands cheer as the Ponderosa players create a "dog pile" to celebrate winning the state Class 4A boys lacrosse championship. The Mustangs won the May 17 game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High by edging Wheat Ridge, 13-11.
Tom Munds
Ponderosa's Ben Zimbeck (9) battles Wheat Ridge defenders during the May 17 state Class 4A boys lacrosse championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Mustangs outlasted a late Farmer rally to win the title, 13-11.
Tom Munds
Ponderosa's Adam Lange (42) blocks Wheat Ridge attacker John Roach (29) out of bounds during the May 17 Class 4A state boys lacrosse championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Lange got flagged for the play but the Mustangs won the game 13-11 to capture the state title.
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Ponderosa players swarmed the field, lined up to accept the trophy and saluted their fans on May 17 after they won the Class 4A state boys lacrosse championship by defeating defending champion Wheat Ridge, 13-11.

“We won as a team,” Mustangs coach Patrick Tierney said after the game. “Our guys knew they needed each other. They worked hard and passed the ball when they saw a teammate in a better position for a shot. No one tried to win the game by himself. It was a great win for us.”

Action in the championship game, played at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, started quickly as Wheat Ridge scored less than a minute into the contest. For about four minutes, the teams sparred, each team feeling out the opponent while seeking to take control of the tempo of play.

The Mustangs took the lead as Blake Bruner's goal with 14 seconds left in the first quarter put Ponderosa ahead 3-1.

Wheat Ridge narrowed the gap to 3-2 on a long-range shot by John Roach early in the second period. The teams traded goals before Ponderosa scored three consecutive goals to take a 7-4 advantage into halftime.

Halftime statistics were about even as Ponderosa took 17 shots on goal and the Farmers took 15 shots at the net. Both goalies were credited with four saves.

Wheat Ridge scored the first goal of the third period before the Mustangs responded with four straight goals, one by Derik Mango, two by Bruner and one by Jack Griffin. The result was the Mustangs led 12-7 going into the final quarter.

Mango scored early in the fourth quarter but Wheat Ridge refused to toss in the towel.

With 6:29 left on the clock, the Farmers came on strong. Four different players put the ball in the net to close the gap to 13-11 with 1:04 left in the game. However, the Mustangs got possession of the ball, spread things out and kept possession until time expired.

The Mustang coach said he knew his team had to respond when Wheat Ridge closed the scoring gap to a 9-6 in the third period.

“We had to score goals because if Wheat Ridge gets ahead, they take the ball and eat time off the clock,” Tierney said. “When they began coming back late we stiffened. We did draw some penalties that made it tough but we got the win. All year, we had 10 good players on the year. If you take the scoring opportunities away from on player, someone else steps up to beat you. For some of these guys, this has been three years in the making and it is a great feeling for all of us.”

Bruner, who scored four goals for the Mustangs, said it was a good day for him and a good day for his team.

“I had a good day because our team executed our game plan and pressed the attack. I scored because my teammates got the ball to me when I was open to take a good shot at the goal,” Bruner said. “When I took a shot, I just looked for a spot where I might get the ball into net. That was tough because Jensen (Makrov), their goalie, is amazing. He is going to Maryland to play lacrosse so you know he is a stud.”

The senior said winning a state championship was the perfect way to end his prep lacrosse career.

“It was absolutely perfect,” he said. “There can't be a better feeling.”

Wheat Ridge Coach Chris Knott said it was a tough game against a very good lacrosse team.

“Our boys were ready to play, we came out and scored that first goal but then we made a few mistakes through the game that hurt us and cost us,” he said. “They got a big lead but our boys must have looked at the clock because they shifted out play into overdrive with about seven minutes to play.”

He said his team scored goals but it was too big a gap to close.

“Congratulations to Ponderosa,' he said. “I take my hats off to them. They were the better team today and the better team won.”