HORSHAM >> The answer, as it so often is, was quite simple.
It was a winter meeting for the Haverford’s boys lacrosse team where head coach Greg Decina asked his players what they needed to win a game. A lot of clichés and intangible answers followed, like determination and hard work.
The answer was none of those things. It was pretty obvious.
“He said it’s simple, you need the ball,” Fords senior midfielder Luke McCallion said.
Tuesday night at Hatboro-Horsham, McCallion got his team the ball almost every time he lined up on the faceoff X. The Fords used it to beat the host Hatters 10-5 to claim a state playoff bid in their District 1-AAA playback bracket first round game.
McCallion and his wingmen combined to go 15-4 on the X, a dominant effort against a very good faceoff man in Hatters senior Brian Hood. As it turns out, once the Fords realized they were going take on the Hatters for the right to continue their season, everything came together for McCallion, a Vermont recruit.
“I’ve been facing off against him at Philly Faceoff League, so we go back and forth and, I don’t know, I guess I just figured things out from the start,” McCallion said. “I’ve been changing up some things throughout the season and found what works.”
Thanks to McCallion, the Fords won the first four faceoffs of the game and zipped out to a 2-0 lead 1:14 into the game. Haverford controlled the entire first quarter and took a 5-0 lead after the opening 12 minutes. The faceoff wins helped gain possession, but the Fords defense was tough as well, forcing the Hatters to take shots that senior goalie Dan Tierney was able to make easy saves against.
“It’s all about possession in a game like this, they have the guns, we know they can score,” Decina said. “It’s big for our offense because our defense is stout, it’s a big momentum shift and confidence builder for our offense for sure.”
McCallion added two first half assists to his tally as Haverford took a 6-2 edge into the halftime break. The Hatters had scored the last goal of the half and had the final possession before the intermission but they knew getting back into the game would be a tall task with the way McCallion was controlling the restarts.
“Unbelievable,” Hatters coach John Kurek said to describe McCallion. “He did an unbelievable job. We tried everything, we put a long pole on him, we tried our first two faceoff guys and he really took control of the game. Brian knew that coming in, he said ‘I know what he’s got and I know what I’ve got to do.’ We had to change what we do as a team to get the ball in our offensive end any way we could.”
Kurek had no qualms about his team’s effort on Tuesday and was especially proud of the way his seniors rallied the troops to get back in the game during the second and third quarters. Hatboro-Horsham’s defense, which is all underclassmen, forced three turnovers in the third quarter and the Hatters took advantage.
Senior Cam Knox scored to make it 6-3 then Will Reimenschneider had a tremendous solo run through the Fords’ defense to put one home with 5:04 left in the third that sliced the visitor’s lead to two goals.
Just as it seemed Hatboro-Horsham was taking the momentum of the game, McCallion got it back for his team. He won a faceoff then after a little bit of offense, got the ball and put it away. Cole Lukasiewicz would complete his hat trick a few minutes later to restore a four-goal cushion and the Fords were in position to close out the game.
“Their goalie made some great saves, they fell for us a few times and just as we started to get the momentum, we couldn’t break through,” Kurek said. “This is a game of momentum and (McCallion) stopped that momentum in a heartbeat.”
Much like it takes an entire team to win a game, it takes more than one guy to come up with the ball after a faceoff.
“My wingmen have my back,” McCallion said. “Jack Farrell’s been with me since sophomore year, I trust pulling the ball to him. My brother (Erik McCallion), Tommy Fredericks, whoever it is, I trust pulling it back to them if I can’t win it myself or I trust them to box out and I can get it myself.”
After spending his freshman year at The Haverford School, McCallion transferred to Haverford where he’s spent the last three years starting as the faceoff man. For him and his senior classmates, this season presented an opportunity to reach the state playoff bid that’s eluded them and the program for so long.
The Fords regrouped quickly after their quarterfinal loss on Saturday and now they want to keep things going into the playback final to determine their state seed.
“We’re a momentum team and once we get things going, there’s not really any stopping us,” McCallion said. “It’s been my dream to make states since coming here. I’ve been able to play with my friends and it’s all we wanted since day one. We told ourselves this is our time for states.”
The Hatters end a terrific season that saw them win an outright SOL American title in their first year in the league, earn a first-round bye and win a home playoff game. After the contest, Kurek and his seniors shared a few minutes together as a group where the coach thanked them for all they’d given the program.
“It was really electric,” Knox said. “Everyone was a good teammate, it was just fun to be around all these guys. We had a good time and we left it all out on the field. It was a good season for us.”
HAVERFORD 10, HATBORO-HORSHAM 5
Haverford 5 1 2 2 – 10
Hatboro-Horsham 0 2 3 0 – 5
Goals-Assists: H – Cole Lukasiewicz 3-0, Nick Dilorio 2-1, John Sheivert 2-0, Luke McCallion 1-2, Jack Daly 2-1; HH – Cam Knox 2-1, Tim McPoyle 1-1, Joe Larouche 1-0, Will Reimenschneider 1-0.