UPPER DUBLIN >> It all came down to one save.
That was the difference in Tuesday’s game in the opening-round District One Class AAA boys lacrosse playoffs.
The save, by Upper Dublin goaltender Dylan Lojeski on Central Bucks South’s Justin Abbanazio, in the closing minutes, preserved Upper Dublin’s 8-7 win over Central Bucks South and pushed the Cardinals into the round of 16 in the tournament.
The Cardinals will face Spring-Ford in Thursday’s second round, while the Titans season comes to an end.
The save by the Cardinals goalkeeper put to a halt a wild comeback by the Trians, who trailed 6-2 in the second quarter and 8-3 in the third, but who pulled within 8-7 with 5:50 left.
But the Cardinals held firm, and brought a smile to head coach Dave Sowers’ lips as the team celebrated the victory.
“Anything, at this point, you chalk up to our young team gaining experience,” said a beaming Sowers, whose team played the entire game with not one senior on the field. “Our inexperience started to show at the end.
“But all we can do from this point forward is learn and get better.”
“I felt we could win it,” said South head coach Mike Strayline, whose team rallied from the four-goal, third-period deficit and put some fear into the Cardinals down the stretch. “There were a couple of costly mistakes, especially one that turned out to be the winning goal.
“We had a player not get off the field properly.”
That goal, by Upper Dublin’s Jerry Bardol, pushed the Cardinals lead to 8-3 with 9:03 left in the third quarter.
Upper Dublin would not score again, but it turned out the Cardinals had just enough to get through to the second round.
The Titans opened the game as if they might spring an upset.
Dante Poli scored twice in the game’s first 2:35, and the visitors had a surprising 2-0 lead.
But the early fireworks seemed to spark the Cardinals, who used three goals by Max Winebrake and two from Jed Hanson to build a 6-2 lead shortly before halftime.
Mike Butkiewicz pulled the Titans within 6-3 just before the break, but when Winebrake and Bardol scored within a 1:38 span early in the third, Upper Dublin was resting easy.
But the Titans had other ideas.
Abbanazio scored twice and Poli once to pull the Titans within 8-6 with 7:35 left in the game.
And when Butkiewicz scored with 5:50 left, the Cardinals led by the slimmest of margins.
South stormed the Cardinals net, and seemed to have the game tied when Abbanazio was alone in front of the Cardinals net in the final 80 seconds.
But his shot was stopped by Lojeski.
“I just tracked it,” Lojeski said. “I knew it was crunch time and I knew it was the (potential) game-deciding goal. I just followed the ball and got the shot.”
And when he did, the Cardinals were home free.
But both coaches were smiling at game’s end.
“We’re young and we’re building,” Strayline said. “We played with a lot of energy today, and that’s how you win games.
“We play with six sophomores and two freshmen, so our future is bright.”
Top Photo: Upper Dublins Brian McCarry winds up for a shot on goal during the Cardinals’ District 1-AAA first round game against Central Bucks South on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. (Gene Walsh/Digital First Media)