No Payne, no gain never rang more true.
Thanks to three goals and three assists by Zach Payne, Air Academy gained a berth in the state tournament's round of 16 with an 11-6 boys' lacrosse victory over Cheyenne Mountain on Friday evening at Indians Stadium.
Jack Trask also had three goals for the Kadets (10-6).
Much of the damage came on plays starting from behind the net, or the 'X.'
“That was something that we saw on the film,” Air Academy coach Haven Waller said. “We knew we could exploit them at X with their six-pack zone.”
Cheyenne Mountain (13-3), which got two goals and an assist from Angus Campbell, saw its season come to an end.
“We knew what was coming, this is a huge rivalry,” Waller said. “We spent a lot of time watching film and practicing some new plays.”
Who Air Academy will face in the round of 16 is yet to be determined. The remaining first-round games will be completed Saturday. At that time, the first-round winners will be placed into the bracket by seed and play one of the eight teams that drew a first-round bye.
Cheyenne Mountain came into Friday's game as the No. 16 seed out of 24. Air Academy, which fell to the Indians 13-11 on Saturday, was No. 17.
Cheyenne Mountain opened the scoring 2:32 into the game. Angus Campbell put a bounce shot past Air Academy goalie Bennett Riefstahl. The Kadets came back 2 minutes later to tie the game as Jack Trask eluded two defenders to score a power-play goal.
The Indians used some nifty passing to regain the lead. Matt Clancy passed laterally to Parker Samelson, who sent a quick flick that found Sam Sheridan in front of the net. Air Academy had a three-on-one breakaway after a turnover in the closing seconds, but Indians' defender Brock Ward dived and stripped the ball by hitting Adam Rowland's stick.
The second quarter was the Zach Payne Show. The Air Academy senior scored twice by circling from his attack position behind the opposing net (the X) and assisted on Alec Finley's goal with 6:11 remaining to give the Kadets a 4-2 lead.
Cheyenne Mountain got a goal from Drew Lazar to go into the intermission trailing 4-3.
A physical third quarter was scoreless for nearly 10 minutes before a 20-yard bounce shot by Air Academy's Conor Henricks slipped past Indians goalie Logan Jepson with 2:07 remaining. Another bouncer from 20, this time by Kevin Koehler after a pass by Payne with just 4 seconds left, allowed the Kadets to enter the final quarter leading 6-3.
Early in the period, Payne notched his third goal by picking off a Jepson clearing pass 10 yards in front of the net and quickly firing it in. The Kadets added four more goals, two by Trask, as a mix of desperation and despair began to creep into the Indians' collective psyche.
Cheyenne Mountain rallied furiously late, adding three goals in the final minute of the game. Spirited as it was, the rally was far too late to be effective.