Alex K.W. Schultz
Special to Colorado Community Media
The pregame stat sheet said the Valor Christian-Regis Jesuit boys lacrosse game should've been close — really close.
Regis entered the game ranked No. 2 in Colorado and 13th in the nation. Valor: No. 3 in the state and America's 15th-ranked squad. Both teams also toted spotless league records into the game, Valor sitting pretty at 5-0 and Regis the owner of a perfect 3-0 mark.
If that wasn't enough, Valor-Regis isn't just another game. It's an intense rivalry, and rivalry games are often down-to-the-bitter-end affairs.
Despite what all the pregame material had to say, Harry Luong, Baden Brown, Buck Cunningham and all the Valor Eagles had something entirely different to say on the field, rolling to a 10-3 win April 25 at a chilly and rainy Valor Stadium.
“It was a good team win today,” said Brown, who scored half of Valor's goals. “It was a well-played game all around. We knew our plan going in. We just had to execute, and I think we did that well.”
Five of Brown's seven shooting attempts found the back of the Regis Raiders' net. The slickest of the junior's goals came with 2 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the second quarter, when he ripped a no-look, over-the-shoulder shot into Regis's net for an 8-3 lead.
Moments later, Brown scored on a twisting, falling-down attempt as he navigated from the X to in front of the Raiders' cage.
When it was all said and done, Brown had scored the game's final four goals. His last came with 31 seconds left in the game, serving as an exclamation point on what was a dominant Valor effort.
“We just got rolling there,” Brown said of the second quarter, when his three goals and individual goals from Rush LaSelle, George Reider and Alexander Rismani turned a 3-3 tie into a 9-3 Eagles advantage. “We sort of just felt them out in the first quarter. We didn't run too much of our stuff. In the second quarter, we picked it up, ran our motion and played as a team. It worked out great for us.”
Of course, a player can't score if he doesn't have the ball, and getting the ball to his team time and again was Luong, who won a whopping 79% (11 of 14) of the game's faceoffs.
“The three most important positions on the field are faceoff, goalie and short-stick defensive midfielders, and they're the positions that don't get talked about enough,” first-year Valor coach Jeremy Noble said. “We're just very lucky and blessed to have really hardworking and coachable kids.”
When Regis did gain possession of the ball and advance it into Valor territory — which wasn't often — Cunningham was there to deny most of the Raiders' shots.
The junior turned away nine of Regis' 12 shooting attempts. Kyle Green also got some playing time in Valor's cage and tallied two saves.
“It starts with our defense — our defense and our goaltending,” Noble said. “Credit to the boys for sticking to the game plan and believing in themselves and each other.”
The two teams traded goals in the first quarter. Scoring for the Eagles (12-1, 6-0 in 5A League #3) were Brown, Reider and Rismani.
After Regis' (8-2, 3-1) Jamie Rosenzweig scored to tie the score at 3-3 with 10:10 remaining in the second quarter, the Raiders didn't score again the rest of the way.
Recording the assists for Valor were Brown and Rismani (two each) and Parker Barhydt and Blake Benton (one each).
With the state playoffs only a couple weeks away, it's quite possible that these two teams haven't seen the last of each other in 2023.
If they do meet again in the state tournament? “We'll be ready again,” Brown said.