Air Academy regroups, downs Steamboat to advance to 4A boys lacrosse final

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First-year Air Academy boys’ lacrosse coach Haven Waller made it a point to challenge his players early in the season. So he scheduled stiff nonconference teams.

The Kadets are paying the price early, but they know that’ll it help out later.

Brighton, Utah's defending champion, defeated Air Academy 9-7 at Air Academy on Thursday for the Kadets’ third loss in its first four.

Brighton (2-0) returned all but two players from last year's team that went 14-0.

“We expected to come out here and have a dogfight,” Brighton coach Brandon Horoba said. “That’s what we got. They were pretty much everything, if not more, than what I was expecting.”

After falling behind 7-4 with 3:35 remaining in the third quarter, the Kadets made it a game. Bradey Hall, Danny Mitchell and Adam Paiement scored goals 3:18 apart, spanning the third and fourth quarters to force a tie.

But Kurt Pascoe’s second goal regained the lead for good for the Bengals.

The Kadets had chances to tie but couldn’t convert in the final four minutes. Paiement had a great look from in close, but his shot went wide. Zach Payne’s shot bounced over the goal seconds later and the Kadets turned the ball over.

Brighton attacker Jayden Haws scored with 1:41 left to secure the win.

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“Just over the net, over the crossbar,” Paiement said. “Grazed it. We just couldn’t do it.”

Battling the Bengals offense was a good test for the Kadets, defender and captain Andrew Renfrew said.

“They were very quick,” Renfrew said. “We’ve got to protect the hole. A lot of times they’d pass it around and we’d get confused with what we’re doing. We’ve got to just collapse on the goal and protect that middle.”

Bengals attacker Evan Alger scored four times against the Kadets. Seeing Alger or another player notch multiple goals is something the Bengals expect.

“We’ve got guys on the field that at any given moment can go off for four or five goals,” Horoba said. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of offensive talent.”

After last season’s soft nonconference schedule and a first-round exit from the playoffs, the Kadets players are welcoming the tough opposition.

“Last year we had way too weak of a schedule,” Paiement said. “We played cupcake team after cupcake team. And when we got into the playoffs we got surprised. There was nothing we could do.”

Renfrew agreed.

“It’s a lot different,” Renfrew said. “It’s really preparing us for what we hope is a deep run in the playoffs.”

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