ROYERSFORD >> It’s been a Pioneer Athletic Conference season to remember for the Spring-Ford boys’ lacrosse team.
Entering the final weeks of the regular season, not only do the Rams sport an unblemished conference record, they’ve been leaving little doubt as to whether they are the class of the division, winning their first seven PAC games by an average of 11 goals.
Monday night, Spring-Ford got the opportunity to prove their mettle in a tight contest.
Jarrod Marenger’s fourth goal of the night broke a 6-6 tie with 9:31 left in the fourth quarter, and the Rams withstood a last-ditch rally to outlast rival Perkiomen Valley, 7-6.
Spring-Ford (10-3, 8-0 PAC) overcame a four-goal deficit in the first half to claim the victory over the Vikings (6-5, 4-2 PAC).
“We need to avoid the mental errors we saw throughout the game tonight,” said Rams head coach Kevin Donnelly. “We spotted them a lead, and then toward the end of the game we need to improve our situational awareness.”
After Marenger gave the Rams the 7-6 lead, SF dominated possession until the senior attackman turned the ball over with 1:27 remaining. At that point, the Rams’ defense picked up their leading scorer, withstanding a man-down situation and keeping Perk Valley without a shot until the clock ran out.
“That’s what Coach Donnelly talked about – avoiding those mental mistakes,” said Marenger. “I’d like to say we did something special at the end there, but solid defense is what we do at Spring-Ford, and that’s how we finished the game.”
Marenger’s heroics began in the late third quarter, as his second and third goals sandwiched around a Peyton Gensler tally turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 Rams lead.
The opening moments of the fourth quarter, however, saw PV’s Max Nice pick up his third goal on the evening before sophomore Connor Roop knotted the score at 6 at 10:07.
Less than a minute later, Marenger closed out the scoring for the evening, as Spring-Ford rode the faceoff performance of Matt Brock and a turnover-creating defense to the finish line.
“Our defense has played incredibly well the past 5-6 games,” said Donnelly. “Take away that first quarter today, and the streak continued again tonight. Kyle (Pettine, Spring-Ford’s goalie) stood on his head at times in the second half; that really helped us hold on.”
A hard-hitting, physical contest from the outset, the game remained scoreless for the first six minutes before PV’s Nice put his team on top. A minute later, Rich Marshall expanded the Vikings lead to 2-0.
Nice and Nick Steele struck early in the second to put PV up 4-0 over the host Rams, while Farrington stopped the first six Spring-Ford shots he saw.
But the game’s turning point came just minutes before halftime, when Marenger got SF on the board just 3:53 before halftime. 13 seconds later, Kyle Mason cut the Vikings lead to 4-2 before a Ryan Rosenblum dodge-and-drive gave Spring Ford its’ third goal in two minutes, and sent the two teams into halftime locked in a one-goal contest.
Marenger’s heroics partially overshadowed an impressive effort from PV junior goalie Rob Farrington. Serving as the team’s captain for the evening, Farrington proved himself worthy of the honor with 16 saves.
“Rob was outstanding tonight,” said PV coach Bryan Churchey. “He’s done an outstanding job taking the leadership role of our defense, which is a big part of what we ask from our goaltender.”
In the end, turnovers were the Vikings’ undoing in the late going, something Churchey says is part of a young team’s maturation process.
“Our motto this season has been ‘all you’ve got, all the time,” he said, “and this is when that becomes critical. This time of year, energy can decrease, players can start to coast.
“So our focus is on the next game. Good teams constantly want to improve and never get complacent.”
As the regular season enters the home stretch, Spring-Ford enters the biggest week of the season thus far. After Monday’s win over PV, the Rams enter a cross-town showdown for first place in the PAC with similarly undefeated Pope John Paul II (a 16-3 victor over Pottsgrove Monday) on Wednesday before traveling to meet perennial PAC championship contender Owen J. Roberts Friday night.
The Rams will be back on the field Saturday morning at the Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival at Radnor High School where they’ll take on Central League powerhouse Garnet Valley before preparing for the PAC Final Four and what they ultimately hope will be a fruitful journey through districts and potentially states.
Many of these same Spring-Ford players were part of the program’s initial foray into the PIAA 3A state tournament last year–PIAA takes the top-six finishers from District One. Spring-Ford came into action Monday ranked 10th in District One, a ranking they may undersell their performance to this point in the season.
“It’s definitely important to win a game like this as we get closer to that second season,” said Marenger. “Games like this, we put the pieces together and find a way to win.”