BOUNTIFUL After making their hometown proud with a tenacious postseason run and a never-say-die attitude, 13 departing Miners finally ran into an obstacle they couldn't overcome.
"It's tragic, kind of, leaving on this note," said senior Sam Sisk. "But we were part of something special. We were the first Park City team to get here, and I'm proud of us."
The Park City High School boys' lacrosse team lost 10-7 to Brighton, playing for the state championship in front of more than a thousand screaming fans at Viewmont High School Stadium.
Senior Matt Mersereau scored four goals and added two assists to lead the Miners, who trailed just 5-4 at the half before a third-quarter surge handed control of the game to the undefeated Bengals.
Twelve seniors and sixth-year head coach Ryan Sheaffer said emotional goodbyes to next year's returning underclassmen after the game, with Sheaffer due for a move to Philadelphia within the next week (in which his successor is expected to be named).
"They've accomplished great things for Park City lacrosse," Sheaffer said. "They've made history. This senior class is easily the most talented we've ever had in Park City, and it speaks to their work ethic and commitment."
The consolation of second place had yet to sink in for most players on Saturday night, with Brighton's fans storming the turf as the Miners commiserated.
The Bengals displayed superior team speed and a conservative game plan that preyed on PCHS errors in transition.
"We just made it easy on them at times," Sheaffer said. "We simply made too many mistakes tonight."
Park City held the bulk of possession early after controlling the opening draw, but the Bengals mustered a foreboding counter attack that finished with Dillon Tran maneuvering for an open shot in front for a 1-0 Bengals' lead.
Hoping to suppress title-game jitters, coaches called for deliberate offensive buildup at both ends, and chances were few in the first quarter. An illegal stick penalty to senior middle Max Vought sent PCHS down a man for the first three minutes of the second quarter, and the Bengals began to open up and take risks in their attack.
At first, change boded well for the Miners. Brighton turned the ball over and Mersereau stickhandled around the Brighton end in an apparent attempt to kill clock on Vought's penalty. The defense sagged back, however, and Mersereau darted through the middle to knot the score at 1-1 on a free shot.
"He's devoted himself to Park City lacrosse," said Mersereau's junior teammate Griffin Perkiel. "He always works hard and pushes us. We wanted to win it for our seniors, especially him."
The Miners' sideline was visibly energized by Mersereau's goal, but PCHS was still in the penalty box when Kurt Pascoe found Connor Barlow in front from the right side for a one-time finish and a 2-1 lead with 9:13 in the half.
Mersereau again responded by charging the Bengals' net. He stood unopposed on the left side of the field, saw an opening in the heart of Brighton's defense, and put his head down to break through and fire a goal past keeper Nate Wilkinson.
"We just needed to get it done," Mersereau said. "We weren't putting up the points, so every chance I got, I just went to the cage."
A low, hard shot from the Bengals' Brandon Wall restored their advantage with six minutes left in the half, then a Sam Sisk illegal body check shortly after led to Brighton's man-advantage goal from Tran, who beat Hoburg through his legs to lead 5-2.
Needing a clutch finish to maintain his team's waning hope, Mersereau delivered.
BHS attacker Greg Sergakis was penalized for an illegal body check with less than two minutes left in the half. Up one man, senior Dillon Dutkanych faked a shot and found Mersereau for a high laser into the upper netting from the left side.
Park City pulled within one when, soon after, Perkiel dished to Mersereau from behind the net. The three-year captain caught it running, jumped and shot across his body for goal No. 4 before the break.
"Matt's an unbelievable player," Sheaffer said. "Probably the hardest-working player I've ever had the privilege of coaching. He was the guy for us tonight."
Alas, despite a collarbone injury to Brighton star Dillon Tran that forced him from the game at the half, Mersereau didn't have enough magic left to singlehandedly beat a deep, skilled opponent.
Barlow scored on his customary high-low ruse at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter, then Mersereau stole a pass, ran past the Bengals' ride and sent it across to Perkiel for an easy finish in front. At 6-5, the Miners finally ran out of gas.
"We came out flat in the third quarter and it just killed us," said senior defenseman David O'Day. "That's what it comes down to."
Haws connected with Barlow for the latter's fourth score, then Haws got paid back for his generosity when Wall set him up to make it 8-5 with about four minutes to play in the third.
Following a prolonged stalemate, Wall cut across the Miners' goal to take a four-goal lead at 9-5 early in the fourth, and Park City's peril was obvious.
Although Dutkanych fought for a wraparound goal, any hopes of erasing the deficit were effectively dashed when Chase Paulsen scored Brighton's final goal unassisted with 4:27 to play.
Perkiel ripped his second goal on an assist from Mersereau with under two minutes left - calling to mind the miraculous overtime goal that beat Jordan in the semifinals - but it was little cause for celebration as the final whistle sounded and Brighton's fans rushed the field.
"They gave us one heck of a game," said Brighton coach Steve Gray. "That's exactly what we would have expected from a championship game. I'm sorry one of us had to walk off the field with the 'L.'"
So were Park City's seniors - who said they'd celebrate their successes at a more positive time, when they can look on their accomplishments more fondly.
"We're a 3A school playing a 5A team," O'Day said. "They have way more kids than we do, and we were hanging with them all year. We could have won, but we know we had a great season."