Sunset leads 4-1 early, but Lincoln rolls in the second half, wins 18-10
by: John Lariviere ON THE MOVE — Sunset’s Curtis Eschman (left) works the ball in the box against Lincoln’s Jake Neuman during Saturday’s state championship.

OREGON CITY - The Sunset boys lacrosse team left it all on the field.

The Apollos, facing Lincoln in the OHSLA State Championship game on Saturday at Pioneer Stadium, knew the deck was stacked against them. The Cardinals were the Columbia League champions, carried a 21-2 record into Saturday's finale, were the top-ranked team in the state and also the defending state champs.

But Sunset (17-7), the Metro League runner-up, hit the ground running Saturday night, blasted out to a 4-1 lead early in the game and still held the upper hand by a 6-5 margin at the half. Lincoln, however, came out energized and focused in the second half, put together a killer 8-1 edge in the third quarter and used that edge to power its 18-10 state championship victory.

As painful as that loss was, the Apollos left focused on the incredible accomplishments of the past two years and proud of their efforts in the finale.

'There wasn't a bunch of crying at the end,' said Sunset defender Armon Petrossian, a first-team all-Metro and all-state selection. 'We played our hearts out and they still got us. But (this year) was awesome. Nobody expected us to go as far as we did.'

'People said we weren't even going to make it to the final four, but we wanted to make it back to the state championship,' said Sunset attacker Curtis Eschman, also a first-team all-Metro and all-state selection. 'It was great. The program has grown so much since we've been here.'

The Apollos, who lost to Lincoln in two overtimes in the 2010 state title contest, showed that growth big-time at the start of Saturday's game. Sunset came out with all guns blazing against the talented Cardinals, racing out to a 3-0 lead at the beginning of the first period, seeing Lincoln answer with its first score, then scoring again to lead 4-1.

The Apollos - led by Cole Abdie's three goals in the contest, and two each from Eschman and Steven Lutz - saw Lincoln cut their lead to 4-3 at the end of the opening frame, but continued to play strong through the game's second period.

The Cardinals, who got six goals in the game for Grant Clifford and four from Michael Marcott, came back to tie the game at 5-5 late in the opening half, but the Apollos responded with another late score to stay on top 6-5 at the half.

'We knew Lincoln was overlooking us … and we went out pretty hard and tried to take it to them,' said Sunset long stick midfielder Riley Brogan, a first-team all-Metro pick and honorable mention all-state selection.

'We came out with a lot of energy and it really helped us,' said midfielder Kyler Bruno, a first-team all-Metro and first-team all-state selection.

'Coach (Jeff Dill) told us to bring it all four quarters, and we got really pumped up,' Eschman said. 'We came out really strong.'

But Lincoln, jolted awake by the Apollos' strong start, settled itself at halftime turned the game around in the third quarter and put its championship hopes back on track.

Marcott scored two quick third-period goals to put Lincoln ahead to stay at 7-6, and his efforts, along with those of Clifford, Jake Marcy (three goals in the game), Chris Nye (three goals) and Tony Baum (two goals) helped lift the Cardinals to an 8-1 third-quarter edge and a 13-7 lead.

'They took all our midfielders behind the goal and that opened it up for them to go one-on-one,' Petrossian explained. 'They had a whole lot of real estate to work with and then they did a good job of getting cutters in there too.'

'They ran way harder. They came out more serious and then they started to get confident,' Brogan said.

The Apollos, also getting strong efforts from Kyler Bruno, Colin Peters, Nate Berry and Griffin Caster, fought strongly through the fourth quarter, but couldn't regain the momentum after the Cardinals' powerful third.

After that disastrous third period, Sunset did score three times in the final period, but the Cardinals tacked on five more to complete their championship run. The win was Lincoln's 20th in a row, and also marked the team's third state championship in the past four seasons.

Despite the loss, the Apollos were satisfied with their performance in the championship, and thrilled with the growth their team had shown over the course of the year.

'We graduated eight seniors from last year's team, but we said we weren't going to rebuild this year, we were going to reload,' Petrossian said. 'We knew we still had huge talent on the team.'

'We were just a bunch of athletes out there playing for fun,' Eschman said. 'We knew Lincoln had more stick skills and higher lacrosse IQ than we did, but over the year, we started to come together and we learned how we all play. It was great.'

'We weren't expected to go as far as we did,' Bruno added. 'But we came together when we hit the playoffs. We knew we had to be more disciplined and we practiced a lot harder.'

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