ROYERSFORD >> Jack Mulcahy wasn’t interested in a repeat.
Almost a year ago to the day, the now-senior and his fellow attackmen stood frustrated on the turf of Spring-Ford’s Coach McNelly Stadium as the Rams dominated possession in eliminating Downingtown East in a District 1 playback game.
Tuesday, facing identical circumstances — win and make states, lose and go home — Mulcahy and East wouldn’t be denied.
Mulcahy scored five goals and Downingtown East turned the tables on Spring-Ford, controlling possession for much of the game in a 10-5 victory that sealed the Cougars’ first trip to states since 2009.
BOYS LACROSSE: Downingtown East into PIAA 3A states with 10-5 victory over Spring-Ford. pic.twitter.com/9tMBIo2G0u
— Rob Senior (@RSenior31) May 22, 2018
“We treated this as a revenge game,” Mulcahy said. “We’d never been to states, and they took us out last year.
“We’ve always thought we were capable of making states, but for me as a senior, this was the last chance. And we made it count.”
The Cougars’ defense frustrated Spring-Ford this time around, holding the Rams to only two goals in the first three quarters behind the efforts of a stout defense led by Zach Hamilton and goalie Nico Iacovino (11 saves). The effectiveness of Downingtown East’s preparation was apparent as they repeatedly forced the Rams into turnovers and difficult shots.
“At this point in the season, if you’re not scouting, you’re doing your players a disservice,” said East head coach Todd Cliggett. “All the assistants and myself, we scout and we try to prepare the kids for everything they might see.”
Mulcahy struck twice for the Cougars in the opening 12 minutes — once to open the scoring at 8:02, and again with only 14 seconds left in the quarter. In between, Spring-Ford freshman Nick Teets got the hosts on the board off a short spin outside the crease.
Downingtown East’s increased focus on possession was apparent in the second quarter, as Nick Erikson controlled a pair of early faceoffs to create possessions that ended in a familiar manner — goals by Mulcahy — to increase the East lead to 4-1. For the game, East went 11-for-19 on faceoffs, perhaps the greatest difference from the 2017 contest.
“Nick and Cooper (DiCicco), our faceoff guys, they’ve worked extremely hard to get us to this point,” said Cliggett. “Luckily for us, that’s one junior and one sophomore — they’ll be back again next year.”
Once Spring-Ford did establish possession, they were forced into repeated turnovers in the Cougars’ defensive zone. When tested, Iacovino was equal to the task, turning away seven first-half shots to send the Cougars into the break with the three-goal advantage.
After halftime, East continued to sustain possession, culminating in a Bryce Lauletta tally at 6:34. Collin Pettine responded 31 seconds later for Spring-Ford, but the Rams were unable to cut any further into the lead thanks to part to Iacovino’s biggest save of the day, robbing SF’s Ryan Rosenblum at the top of the crease before the end of the third.
Lauletta scores again early in the fourth before Mulcahy put home his fifth goal of the contest to give East their largest lead to that point at 7-2. Jarrod Marenger and Pettine responded to bring SF back within three, but a late strike from Brian Miller and a pair of scores from defenseman Zach Lee put it on ice for Downingtown East (12-7).
Spring-Ford was led by Collin Pettine’s three goals. The Pioneer Athletic Conference champion Rams end the season with a record of 16-6 and the frustration of falling just one game short of a return trip to states.
“We’ve got a group of seniors and a whole team that worked hard all year, and unfortunately we came out on the wrong end today,” said Rams head coach Kevin Donnelly.
“(Coach Cliggett) and Downingtown East wanted it badly. We knocked them out last year, and I think that revenge factor pushed them — they came out fast and played really well.”
Downingtown East moves into another playback game with Perkiomen Valley — a 5-1 winner over Central Bucks West — to determine District 1’s fifth and sixth seeds for states. The Cougars will play either the District 1 or District 12 champion in the first round of states — an imposing matchup for most teams.
“We’re not scared of any team we play,” Mulcahy stressed. “We’re bonding, we’re clicking, everything’s coming together at the right time.”