PHOENIXVILLE >> A trip to Phoenixville had only ever meant one thing to the Boyertown boys lacrosse team: resounding victory.
Tuesday’s visit to the upstart Phantoms was more appropriately a relieving victory.
An extremely game Phoenixville team gave the Bears everything they could ask for, so much so the Phantoms had the ball in the final minute with the game tied 5-5. But Boyertown defender Carson Flint grabbed a groundball, streaked for midfield and sent a long-range pass to Brady McFalls on the doorstep for an easy finish with 26.7 seconds remaining as Boyertown escaped, 6-5, to snap a four-game losing streak.
McFalls (three goals, one assist) opened the game’s scoring less than a minute in and capped it in the final minute, his final tally a major domino in the Bears’ chase for the PAC’s fourth playoff spot.
“It was really high up there (among the goals I’ve scored),” the sophomore said. “I was just really glad we went out there as a team and won.”
Boyertown, which also got goals from Keegan Schealer, Mason Turner and Skylar Wallace, improved to 8-8 and 5-3 in the PAC, staying ahead of the other fourth-place hopefuls Methacton (4-3) and Upper Merion (3-4).
It was a nervy way to go, but a crucial win toward making the PAC Final Four.
“Everybody wants to win a championship so the first step to getting there is to make the playoffs,” senior long-stick midfielder Dan Yednock said. “That’s our goal right now and that’s all we’re looking toward.”
“It’s been a pretty special season. Every year is different than the next and I think every year comes with its ups and downs and certainly this year has, too.”
One of the pleasant surprises of the PAC lacrosse season, Phoenixville nearly made it another ‘down’ for the Bears.
The Phantoms, which got goals from Stephen Schaefer, Daniel Jackson, Matt Napolitana, Jack Linko and Matthew Rosenfeld, have been a different team under first-year coach Chip Mittnacht, a 2005 Phoenixville graduate.
In the past three seasons, Phoenixville was 0-16 (2014), 2-14 (2015) and 2-16 (2016). This season the Phantoms are 8-8 (3-6 PAC) and in position to earn a spot in the District 1 Class AA playoffs, picking an excellent time to elevate as a program with the introduction of two classifications in lacrosse.
“It’s increased morale,” Mittnacht said of the team having postseason aspirations. “For that to be a possibility, it increases morale, it’s great and changes the game completely for a team like Phoenixville.”
“A lot of my mindset when it comes to coaching is keeping everything positive. There’s always some positive spin you can put on everything. I think it’s helped this team – the skill is there, just sometimes they lack confidence and it’s important to keep them up at all times.”
The Phantoms had every reason to be up Tuesday while always having an answer for the Bears. Even when Boyertown got goals from McFalls and Wallace in a 30-second span midway through the second quarter that looked like it could be a huge momentum swing, Phoenixville replied with Derek Bullotta finding a cutting Napolitana to tie it 3-3 entering halftime.
It was tied 4-4 entering the fourth quarter after Schealer and Linko exchanged goals in the third. Things again looked to swing in the Bears’ favor when McFalls found Turner for a man-down goal with 7:23 to play. But Phoenixville answered back when Ignacio Ortiz (two assists) absorbed a double-team and found Rosenfeld for the tying score with 3:19 to play.
It was there for the Phantoms with the ball in the final minute but a costly turnover before they could create a shot led to the fastbreak Flint-to-McFalls hookup with 26.7 left to decide it.
At game’s completion, both teams found themselves searching for the same thing: to play a complete game.
“I think they outplayed us today,” Yednock said of Phoenixville. “We’ve been in a little bit of a struggle lately. We just need to pick it back up, work on the fundamentals and we’ll be fine. We just need to keep going and play as hard as we can, playing how we know we can play.”
“There’s been a bunch of games where we were right there or, last night for instance (a 12-11 defeat to Sun Valley), we’ll have one horrible quarter,” Mittnacht said. “We aren’t able to play at the level I know they can play at for four quarters. If we can get them playing for four quarters, we can hang with almost any team that we play.”
NOTES >> Boyertown is coached by Grady Wise, who was the Phoenixville head coach from 2012-15. … Boyertown entered the week ranked No. 20 in the District 1 Class 3A power rankings. The field is 24 teams. Phoenixville was ranked No. 9 in the 12-team AA field. … Both teams had a few important absences, Boyertown’s top attackman Jason Clinton, who is out with a hand injury, while Phoenixville was missing Drew Lopolito, Brendan Jenkins and Anthony Martolucci until the second half due to advanced placement testing.