AURORA ? Bennett Riefstahl stood tall in net for Air Academy, even if his insides told a different story. Then his teammates on offense got going to rally the Kadets past Steamboat Springs and into the 4A state boys' lacrosse championship game.
Jase Wyeno scored three times, Jack Trask led a second-quarter rally with a goal and an assist, and Riefstahl kept Steamboat scoreless for nearly 34 consecutive minutes as Air Academy scored a 6-4 victory Wednesday at Legacy Stadium.
"We've been thinking about this game for five days, and a couple of us have been freaking out about it," Riefstahl said. "We had some jittery nerves at the beginning and just had a hard time getting the ball in our sticks and possessing it. We just told ourselves after the first quarter to calm down and treat this like just another game."
The Kadets (17-1), who won their 14th straight, will meet the only team to beat them, Wheat Ridge (14-4), in the 4A state final at 2 p.m. Saturday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Farmers downed the Kadets 11-6 on March 18.
Steamboat Springs (14-4) controlled possession for most of the first quarter but had very little to show for it, thanks to four saves by Riefstahl. After Wyeno's first goal, a wraparound with 8:20 left, the Sailors tied it on a virtual empty-netter from Ben Wharton after a bad pass in front of the Kadets goal. With 3:54 left, Christian Ramirez faked out a defender and fired a low shot past Riefstahl for a 2-1 lead.
The second quarter told a much different story as the Kadets undid the Sailors' hard work in just 4:16.
Trask's turnaround shot from the left wing tied the game at 2 with 8:45 left, then assisted Wyeno with the extra-man advantage. Joe McDonough added a long ripper from the right wing for a two-goal cushion heading into halftime.
"In the second quarter, one of our goals was to finish more, but we weren't there on the groundballs, not there in possession," Steamboat junior Peter White said. "We just kind of lost it then and through the third quarter. It's impossible to explain, but it happens in this sport."
After a scoreless third quarter, Air Academy waited just 9 seconds to add to its lead in the fourth on Connor Nash's tight-angle tally, followed by Wyeno's second man-advantage goal 1:39 later for a 6-2 lead.
White finally broke his team's scoreless drought with 5:40 left, and Ramirez added his second goal two minutes later but Steamboat could get no closer.
"We were kind of complacent as an offensive unit early, and Steamboat was very energetic and they came after us," Kadets coach Ron Garcia said. "I credit our team for adapting and playing our game."
Now, the Kadets get another shot at Wheat Ridge, who held off Valor Christian 13-5 in Wednesday's other 4A state semifinal at Cherokee Trail High School.
"Our goal is to win the state championship," Garcia said. "We had to go through Steamboat, now we get to play Wheat Ridge again. We played them real early in the season, and we're playing our best lacrosse now. We're looking forward to the challenge."