BUCKTOWN >> The Spring-Ford boys lacrosse team is at the point where they have to discuss how to orient their hands.
After all, there are plenty of options for holding up seven fingers for a championship photo.
The Rams made it seven straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championships Thursday night by dispatching archrival Owen J. Roberts, 9-5, with a dominant second-half performance.
The Spring-Ford senior class became the first to never lose to a PAC opponent, four straight seasons of accomplishing the feat.
“It’s something special,” senior Tate Pijanowski said. “It’s not something you’ll come across often. It’s not just our class, this has been class after class after class. We have to thank the older guys for pushing us everyday in practice, pushing us to become the players we’ve become as seniors.”
Senior Danny Cassidy was a two-way force as usual with his five-goal performance while Pijanowski had a goal and two assists and junior Jarrod Marenger scored twice and had an assist for the Rams (16-2).
Home-field advantage was on OJR’s side, while history was firmly on Spring-Ford’s having won each of the seven titles over the Wildcats (11-8). But history doesn’t equal a birthright.
“It gives us confidence, but at the end of the day you can lose it all in one game,” Cassidy said. “We have to take it one game at a time. We might have won the last six, but that doesn’t mean we can’t lose on any given night.”
This year’s Ram team has fewer big-name players than the Division I player-filled 2016 edition, but the results haven’t fallen in any way.
“We graduated a lot of good players last year and we had definitely had a lot of doubters, even among our graduates. But we like proving everybody wrong,” senior defender Tanner Romano said. “I know a lot of our kids have stressed that we may not have the same playmakers as last year but you don’t need playmakers to win a game. We’re striving to play as a good team and so far everything is falling into place.”
It was the little things that made Spring-Ford champions in 2017.
“Hustle in any tight game is the determining factor: hustle plays, ground balls, rides, they are the difference between winning and losing,” OJR coach Ben Carville said. “The team that has won seven championships looked like a team that has won seven championships and knows how to win seven championships. They just outworked us and it created the opportunities for them to stop our runs and extend their leads.”
It looked like Spring-Ford’s night after Cassidy’s early clinic and a Marenger goal had the Rams up 4-0 with 5:26 left in the second quarter.
But the Wildcats came alive with three unanswered into halftime, including Austin Koury’s pair and an Andrew Siana-to-Joey Tordone connection that got the run going.
“At halftime I was a little more worried when they were only down by one and had a little more momentum going. We talked, cooled off and started playing more intensely,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy, assisted by Drew Giovinco, got the Rams back on course early in the third quarter and they never looked back.
“That’s my last time playing Owen J. so I really wanted to play all out,” Cassidy, who was hoisted with the championship plaque by his teammates in the postgame, said. “It’s not an individual thing. Tate threw me two assists; the players got me in the right position and I was just there to capitalize.”
“It’s no secret Danny Cassidy is a playmaker,” Pijanowski said. “We knew we needed not only him, but the entire team to have a great game, but him playing out of his mind like that elevates everything and gets us all going.”
Spring-Ford was clinical late, creating ride-back goals and killing out the clock over the final five minutes after Cassidy’s score from the faceoff killed momentum from a Tordone goal seven seconds after.
NOTES >> Ryan Rosenblum also posted a goal and an assist for Spring-Ford while goalie Kyle Pettine made 12 saves. For OJR, Cooper Chamberlain had an assist and Logan Clefisch had a goal. Goalie JC Capaldo made 10 saves. … Both teams are bound for the District 1 Class AAA playoffs, which begin Tuesday. Spring-Ford entered the week ranked No. 4 and are on course for a first-round bye. The Wildcats were No. 14.
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