Bozeman boys lacrosse 1

The Bozeman boys lacrosse team celebrates after winning its third straight state championship Sunday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

During a parents-only meeting at the start of the season, first-year head coach Ben Heisey delivered a message that resonated throughout the spring.

Bozeman had won back-to-back state titles, but the program was only about a third of the way to his long-term goal. He didn’t just want to be the best team in Montana. He wants Bozeman to contend with tougher competition from other states in preseason and postseason tournaments.

But to turn that into reality, Bozeman needed to remain on top in Montana, which it did Sunday by winning its third straight state title, 12-6 against Glacier at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula.

“We go into every game knowing there’s a target on our back,” goalie Ethan Zwickey said. “Just playing the way we do sets the precedent for all of Montana and I think makes everybody better.”

First-team all-state honorees Zwickey (17 saves), Connor Patten (two goals) and McCade O’Reilly (two goals) led Bozeman as it steadily built the lead.

Peyton Hogan, Hans DuBose, Tommy Holloran and Harrison Cannon each scored twice, an indication of Bozeman’s offensive balance. The team adjusted to a new coach and remained dominant, finishing the year 14-0 against in-state opponents and 17-1 overall.

“It sometimes can be hard for teams to keep focus when they’re winning by those (large) margins,” Heisey said. “Their dedication level and vision to keep going at it all the way to the end really proved a lot to me about their personality.”

Glacier struck first, but Holloran said the early deficit helped Bozeman settle in. A minute and a half later, Patten dodged from behind the net and scored by capitalizing on a matchup against a short-stick defender. He added two assists in the second quarter and orchestrated the attack.

Glacier saved 15 shots on goal in the first half but still trailed 5-1 and never caught back up. As the offense continued scoring goals and Zwickey continued making saves, Bozeman found its usual rhythm.

“We showed up with the expectation of taking care of business,” Heisey said, “and doing exactly what we did.”

To accomplish Heisey’s goal, the team adopted new schemes. Patten was surprised when he and his teammates each received a hard-copy playbook and a link to review plays online. He immediately understood the new coaching staff would push players to improve regardless of how often they won.

After shaking off instinctual complacency that may come after back-to-back titles, Bozeman embraced the changes.

“It made us so much better than we were at the beginning of the year,” Zwickey said. “He did a great job. There was a learning curve, but we came together and figured things out.”

After blowing out opponents on Saturday, Heisey told his team to keep doing the same things. Players discussed how they should treat the championship like any other game and act as if they had been there before, because they had.

And ultimately a season filled with change ended with the same constant.

“This program,” Patten said, “is going to continue to win.”

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.

Paul Schwedelson is a sports writer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.