CONCORD >> Four years ago at a mid-February box lacrosse tournament, Garnet Valley coach Frank Urso was asked about an incoming freshman that had been drumming up a lot of hype in the offseason.
At the time, Urso was coming off a successful season that included a state tournament win over Great Valley, and his team featured multiple All-Americans. One of the greatest players to ever play the game, Urso had seen his fair share of talented players, so the scouting report he gave on a young kid named Matt Moore was startling, to say the least.
“He’s the best player I’ve ever coached,” Urso said at the time.
That couldn’t be right, could it? An eighth grader?
“The best,” Urso firmly affirmed.
For 3½ seasons, Moore has made his coach look like a prophet, and Saturday, he guided the Jaguars to an 8-4 win over Haverford High that sealed the Jaguars’ first trip to the state tournament of Moore’s career. The Virginia signee tallied three times, the second of which marked his 300th career point.
“I really had no clue. I didn’t even know,” Moore said. “(Urso) keeps track. It’s awesome. It’s just my team. They’re giving me the points. They’re giving me open shots and assists, especially assists. They get open and I’ll find them.”
He’s pretty good at that, as evidenced by his third-quarter setup of Jake Buttermore’s tally. But Moore’s biggest gift is making those around him better. He missed a good chunk of the early part of the season with a foot injury, and it’s clear he’s still not at 100 percent. Despite that, the Jaguars’ offense still revolves around No. 11 and he makes sure to elevate everyone around him.
“The most special thing is that he makes everyone around him better, whether it’s in the game or in practice,” Urso said. “Their game rises because they watch what he does. Sometimes, they’re amazed by what he does, like I am, and they don’t try to emulate what he does, but it gets them thinking about what they’re capable of doing.”
Moore reached the 300-point plateau when he beat a defenseman from X and snapped a low lefty shot that eluded Danny Tierney (11 saves). More importantly, though, it put Garnet Valley into the state tournament for the first time since 2013. The Jaguars continue their quest for a District 1 title Tuesday night (7:30), hosting No. 3 Conestoga, a 12-2 winner over Hatboro-Horsham.
Don’t think this long-awaited state berth didn’t weigh on the Jaguars’ minds.
“We let down every single year,” Moore said. “That’s what we’re known for. Everyone’s like, ‘They’re good in the regular season, win the Central League, and then they choke in the playoffs.’
“I think the biggest thing is that everyone’s been contributing. Hunter Baar had three goals against West Chester East. Kids like that stepping up is why we’re going to, hopefully, go so far this year.”
Garnet Valley (16-4) didn’t wait long to show off against the Fords. Jake D’Annunzio got the party started, then two Moore goals sandwiched one from Evan Trizonis. John Sheivert briefly ended the run, but Buttermore closed out the quarter with the first part of his hat trick. Jason Rose stopped the Fords’ first four shots and Garnet Valley scored on its first three cracks at it.
“We decided to go with zone and they expected man,” Rose said. “They weren’t ready and the shots they were taking were a little sloppy. (Early saves) definitely helped me. Nerves are here now that it’s playoff time. We’ve been in this game a lot and haven’t won it lately, so this was a big one.”
Haverford’s season isn’t over. The Fords (14-6) can bounce back through playbacks to grab one of District 1’s six spots in the Class 3A tournament.
Luke McCallion was his usual excellent self for Haverford, setting up Sheivert twice and Cole Lukasiewicz for another while also winning 13 of 16 faceoffs.
“We knew that they’d be putting a lot of their offense through Matt Moore, but we didn’t expect a lot of their guys to take the initiative as much as they would,” Haverford All-Central defenseman Mike Dice said. “We just really thought it would be straight through 11 and 31, Buttermore. But a lot of their other guys came to play, too.”