Though the outcome wasn't in doubt as the final seconds ticked away, Air Academy jubilantly rushed the field in celebration of its league-title clinching win over Cheyenne Mountain.
It was as though the Kadets understood that an era was about to end, and they were thrilled to end it with their squad back on top.
Air Academy, which went on the road and beat the Indians 8-5 on Tuesday night, will see its pool of talent cut in half next year when District 20 adds a second lacrosse team. So this league title, the team's fourth in the past five years, could potentially be the last in a while.
'We talked to our juniors and sophomores who are on the east side of the interstate, because it's going to be an east-west split, and we told them this is their senior year, too, ' said Kadets goalie Bennett Riefstahl, who stopped all but five of the 35 shots he faced Tuesday. 'Realistically, we're not going to have as good as a team as we do with all of us all together. So we're all just playing our hearts out and playing for each other, not just for ourselves. That's the biggest thing we have going for us right now. '
The Kadets (14-1, 5-0 Pikes Peak League) didn't need much more than Riefstahl on this night. He limited the Indians (12-2, 3-1), who scored 13 times in winning this matchup last year, to just two first-half goals as his team built a 5-2 lead. With the exception of a two-goal flurry from Angus Campbell in the span of 16 seconds to pull the score within 6-5 with 10 minutes remaining, Riefstahl was fully in command.
'He was a wall, and Air Academy just played a hell of a game, ' Cheyenne Mountain coach Mike Paige said.
The Indians' comeback efforts took a hit when Matt Clancy received a 2-minute penalty for unnecessary roughness with 5:02 remaining, just after the Kadets had stretched their lead to 7-5. Air Academy added another goal ? Mitchell Miller's fourth of the game ? with the man advantage and waited for the celebration.
Kadets coach Ron Garcia, a longtime assistant in his first year as head coach, was happy to see his team block out any distractions that may have arisen in a rivalry game with a league title on the line and his team seeking revenge from last year.
'If we get out of our heads and get crazy, that's a pretty good recipe for losing, ' said Garcia, who made discipline the theme of the game. 'We had to tighten things up. '
The immediate future will likely see both of these teams serve as hosts in the playoffs, though both have games remaining in the regular season.
Beyond that, the local lacrosse landscape is a bit of an unknown for the first time in a long time.
'I think Air Academy's legacy of being able to draw all those guys, you know, they'll have to split now, ' Paige said. 'But Ron's a great coach and he'll do a heck of a job. I have no doubt that Air Academy will still be a prominent, dominant team in Colorado Springs. '