BUCKTOWN >> The Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts boys lacrosse teams simply don’t know any other way.
The finalists of the previous 10 Pioneer Athletic Conference championship games each made it 11 Tuesday night in games similar, though far different in tension levels.
Spring-Ford, the six-time defending PAC champions, opened up an 8-0 first-half lead en route to an 11-6 victory over Boyertown in the opening game of Tuesday’s semifinal doubleheader at Owen J. Roberts.
The hosts and No. 3 seeded Wildcats controlled three quarters to build a five-goal lead before Perkiomen Valley mounted a hard-charging rally only to fall short of OJR, 9-8.
The second decade of PAC boys lacrosse starts the same way as the first: with Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts meeting in the title game, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Owen J. Roberts in the second game of a doubleheader that begins with the girls’ final.
Owen J. Roberts 9, Perkiomen Valley 8 >> The Wildcats pushed aside their regular season defeat to the Vikings with three comprehensive quarters that saw them built a 5-3 halftime lead and 8-3 lead after three quarters.
OJR senior midfielder/faceoff man Austin Koury was the star of the show with two goals and two assists while most notably going 17-3 on the faceoff, a huge factor in the Vikings’ fourth-quarter rally that came up just short.
“Faceoffs are always key but it’s not a one-man game,” Koury said. “You’ve got wing play and your attack and defense showing for you, too. It may be two guys lining up for it but it’s 9-10 people on the field going for that groundball so it’s a team win.
“It was definitely a good game for our team on the faceoff, but that’s something that we can do all year. That’s not just a one-time thing, you’ll see it Thursday, too.”
Logan Clefisch and Evan Massa each had two goals and an assist and Noah Calle had a goal and two assists for the Wildcats (10-7), which are winners of eight of nine.
Brian Fehr’s offense kept Perk Valley (13-5) in striking distance in the first half. He totaled three goals and an assist while Shawn Coulter scored three as the architect of the Vikings’ comeback.
Fehr ignited the rally with 7:24 remaining and less than three and a half minutes later, PV was within 8-6 on goals from Coulter. Massa found Clefisch wheeling from the backside for a momentum-cutting goal with 3:41 to play in what would prove to be the game-winner.
Richie Marshall and Coulter struck again, his last with 1:09 to play, to make it 9-8 in the final minute. The senior midfielder had it on his stick in PV’s attacking half in the final seconds but couldn’t get a good enough look for the tying score.
Coulter! It’s down to 9-8 . 1:09 left pic.twitter.com/N0UR1MSKmw
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) May 10, 2017
“They put up a couple unanswered on you and you’re gonna be nervous,” Koury said. “But the team held it together pretty well, (we) were able to get the ball back and luckily Coulter didn’t stick that last one. He deserves a lot of props for that comeback. Great player. It’s unfortunate for him to go home so early, but we’re happy for it.”
When the going got tough, the Wildcats were able to rely on what they’ve always known and what the Vikings are left to wait another year to attempt again.
“It’s a combination of experience and getting your back put against the wall. Necessity and experience,” OJR first-year head coach Ben Carville said. “Owen J. doesn’t know anything but making it to the championship. And we talked about it before, nothing is owed to us. There’s a time and a place for everything, but they didn’t want that time to be tonight. That’s the mentality we want to have as a team.”
Spring-Ford 11, Boyertown 6 >> A dominant first half fueled the Rams into their 11th straight PAC final with eyes on winning their seventh straight league title.
Spring-Ford (15-2) led 8-0 at halftime but was outplayed in the second half, a reality the Rams weren’t pleased with.
“We’re excited to be in another championship, but mixed emotions right now,” senior defender Tanner Romano said. “We didn’t take this game as we should have and we’re going to have a hard practice (Wednesday).”
Danny Cassidy led with three goals and an assist while Jarrod Marenger had two goals and three assists and Ryan Rosenblum added two goals and three assists.
Even with some different personnel after last year’s accomplished team, the Rams are right back where they’ve always been.
“I’ve watched from the sidelines the couple of years and been excited for the guys on the field and it’s finally my turn to hopefully bring another (title),” junior goalie Kyle Pettine said.
The games only get bigger for Spring-Ford from here and another title turn in goal No. 1.
“Everyone always talks down about the PAC, but no matter what, this is always going to be a big game for us and every single year this is a goal for us that we can’t get anywhere else,” Romano said.
To Boyertown’s credit, it put forth a second half worthy of a team headed for the District 1 playoffs.
For the Bears (9-10), Brady McFalls had three goals, Nick Moccia had a goal and an assist while Skylar Wallace was a force on the faceoffs.