Rebels hold on, just barely

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Columbine’s sizzling start enough to beat Littleton in playoff opener

By Michael Hicks

If Columbine could’ve started its first-round boys lacrosse state playoff game with Littleton any better head coach Dan Geiger probably doesn’t know how.

OK, maybe he does but it would be hard for him to argue with the results. Finishing the game, well, that’s a different story. Nevertheless, the Rebels got just enough for an 11-9 victory over Littleton on May 8 at Littleton Public Schools Stadium. Seniors Rhys Harrison and Anthony Wilner scored a pair of goals in a seven-goal first period, and the 21st-seeded Rebels kept the Lions off the scoreboard for the game’s first 18 minutes in advancing to the second round.

“Unbelievable. We talked about that all week. We had a great week in practice. All we kept focusing on was coming out hot, coming out strong, coming out to a great start. We really did it. We poured it on. That’s exactly what we needed,” Geiger said.

No kidding, considering how the game ended.

Columbine (10-8) advanced to play at Cherry Creek on May 11. Results from that game weren’t available at press time.

If the Rebels were feeling any lingering effects from an 8-6 loss to the Lions in the regular-season finale they were wiped out two minutes into the game when Justin Grassi punched a shot past Littleton starting goalkeeper Cameron Merrick. By the time Wilner bounced his second goal of the game into the net Littleton had pulled Merrick in favor of sophomore Greg Roberts and Columbine was ahead 7-0.

The regular-season defeat proved to be a motivator the Rebels utilized to the hilt early on.

“It made us want to come back and beat them. It gave us motivation,” Wilner said.

Harrison and Wilner finished with three goals each, and freshman Jake Gonzales scored twice, including a game-closing tally with 1 minute, 2 seconds left that fended off Littleton’s last-gasp heroics.

Whereas the first half, in particular the first quarter, was all Columbine, Littleton showed its resolve over the final 24 minutes. Before senior midfielder/attacker Ethan Quick scored with six minutes left in the half, 12th-seeded Littleton (8-8) found itself in an 8-0 hole. Michael Kramer, Dan Hurst, John Sauer and Connor Kellogg also found the net — Kellogg scoring five times in the second half — but the early deficit was insurmountable for the Lions.

“I feel good that they fought back, but we shouldn’t have put ourselves in the position that we did down 8-0. It’s too big of a hole to crawl out of,” Littleton head coach Chris Parsons said. “We made a good effort to get out of the hole. We just didn’t have enough.”