Dakota Ridge proves that it belongs in lacrosse playoffs

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By Craig Harper
For the Courier

DENVER -- It didn’t take long for Dakota Ridge to establish itself in boys lacrosse. The Eagles bucked the odds by qualifying for the 5A playoffs in just their second year of varsity play, and, as the No. 12 seed, came close to stunning No. 5 Colorado Academy in the first round of the 5A state tournament.

Coach Mike Thumim’s team twice trailed the host Mustangs by two goals and rallied to tie the May 7 game with 9 minutes, 44 seconds left before the floodgates opened and Colorado Academy escaped with a closer-than-the-final-score-indicated 8-3 victory.

“I think we proved we can play with anybody out there,’’ said freshman midfielder Harper Silliman, who scored the Eagles’ final two goals on a pair of spectacular plays. “We’ve just got to play hard through the whole game.’’

Dakota Ridge (11-5) won its last seven regular-season games following a 13-6 loss to Columbine to reach the postseason, and nearly pulled off the upset despite a season-low three goals to go with a tough start (Colorado Academy led 2-0 after the first quarter) and finish.

“From about the second quarter ‘til about halfway through the fourth quarter, we outplayed them,’’ Thumim said. “We tied the game a couple times and just got unlucky a couple of times. End of story.’’

Taylor Davis, the Eagles’ leading scorer for the season who showed some frustration with his shots not connecting, ended the Eagles’ scoring drought with his team-leading 34thgoal on a power play with 7:22 left in the third quarter. The Mustangs answered 11 seconds later for a 3-1 lead before Silliman followed with a scoring shot from the restraining line late in the third quarter and netted a breakaway goal early in the fourth following a near-length-of-the-field pass from goalkeeper Tanner Pauley. “I thought we were making a run for it,’’ Silliman said.

But Colorado Academy quickly regained the lead on a man-up goal 32 seconds later and added four goals in the final 6:10.

Pauley was stellar in goal until then against a Colorado Academy team that averaged almost 13 goals during the regular season but had just three until 9:02 of the final quarter.

Thumim thought the Eagles were denied two goals by the officials, one early in the second quarter and the other after Colorado Academy went ahead 4-3. “And they got basically two garbage goals and an empty-netter at the end of the game to make it eight.’’

But, said Thumim, “It’s been an amazing year. I’m just really proud of the kids and what they did and how they went about doing it.’’