LONDON GROVE – It was less a contest and more a coronation.
The Avon Grove boys wrapped up the 2017 regular season with a 16-2 triumph over Oxford on Thursday, securing its second straight Ches-Mont lacrosse championship. And even though the Red Devils have won three league titles since 2013, this is the first time the program has ever won them back-to-back.
“To win two in a row is huge,” said junior defender Bryce DeMuth.
“I am real proud of the guys,” added head coach Eric Jackson. “They’ve worked hard and they’ve come together. This is a tight-knit group and they know what it takes, which is a lot of work from everybody up and down the entire roster.”
Avon Grove’s dominance of the Ches-Mont is unquestioned. Against the visiting Hornets, the Devils extended their winning streak against league foes to 25-straight dating back to April of 2015. And winning two outright crowns without a setback speaks for itself.
“It’s a good thing, unless you get too overconfident,” said DeMuth, who has already verbally committed to Yale. “It’s good to have tough games so you can learn how to battle.”
Now 11-0 (16-1 overall), Avon Grove had a couple battles this spring, but managed to pull out a pair of 8-6 wins against Downingtown East and Bishop Shanahan. Against all Ches-Mont opponents, the Devils trailed just once this season — for a few minutes against East last week — before roaring back to win it. In all, Avon Grove outscored its league foes 132-40.
“There are great players in our league, and now we kind of have a target on our backs,” Jackson pointed out. “Our guys have done a nice job of responding, but there is a long way to go. We are happy and proud with this, but it isn’t at all where we want to eventually be.”
Currently ranked number one in the District 1 3A Seeding/Power Rating System, the Devils were 3-1 against top-9 teams in the regular season. The lone setback was 9-8 on the road at No. 4 Spring-Ford on April 1, the same day that star midfielder Doug Jones went down with a broken wrist. The wins came against Central Bucks East (No. 3), Garnet Valley (5) and Downingtown East (9).
The district seeding meeting with take place Saturday at Harriton, and Avon Grove is expected to get a first-round bye and then host a second-round game on May 18. The Red Devils are ranked second in District 1 by LaxPower, behind only Conestoga.
Needless to say, the postseason hopes are lofty.
“Our goal is to win districts and hopefully end our season with a win. But we have a long way to go,” said DeMuth, slyly referencing a possible state title.
“Hey, these guys want to keep playing together, so they are going to try to make it as long of a season as they can,” Jackson added.
The starters played sparingly on Thursday against an Oxford program that got underway in 2016 and made its Ches-Mont debut in 2017. To complicate things for the inexperienced Hornets, head coach Jim Harvey didn’t make it through the season, so Joe Martinelli took over on an interim basis.
“It takes time,” Martinelli said. “We have a good feeder program now and hopefully in a couple years we will be able to compete with great teams like Avon Grove.”
The Devils scored four goals in the opening six minutes of play, led 6-1 after the first period, and 15-1 at the half.
“This kind of game helps with all of the kids who work really hard in practice,” DeMuth said. “It gives them a chance to get on the field.”
It was also another chance for Jones to get some action in preparation for the postseason. The senior, who is headed to Army, missed a dozen games before returning on Tuesday against Great Valley. Avon Grove did not have its top two faceoff specialists, Nate Hammond (shoulder) and Kevin Francis (thumb), who were injured last week.
“We’ve yet to be healthy this season, so it’s crazy to think what we’ve done anyway,” DeMuth said. “But it’s exciting because we hope we can still peak.
“In the meantime, people have had to fill roles, so I think we will have more people that can do more things if we can get everybody healthy.”
Jones looks close to 100 percent, but there is no timetable for either Hammond of Francis to return.
“I think (Avon Grove) can run the table in the postseason,” Martinelli said.
Zach Augustine, Nick Chastain, Mike Russo and Xavier Salley each scored two goals for the Devils, and Joey Borkey added a goal and two assists. Oxford (1-10, 2-16) got goals from junior John Martinelli and sophomore Peter Fontaine, and goalie Chase Rasik added six saves.
Avon Grove 16, Oxford 2
Oxford 1 0 1 0 – 2
Avon Grove 6 9 0 1 – 16
Oxford goals: Martinelli, Fontaine.
Avon Grove goals: Augustine 2, Chastain 2, Salley 2, Whiteside, Borkey, Smith, Harman, Lengel, Russo 2, Waibel, Evans, Hanyon.
Goalie saves: Rasik (O) 6; Malone (AG) 2; Hanway (AG) 4.