Mathis, mates making name for themselves at Bonner-Prendie

UPPER DARBY — As Nick Saraceni saw Bonner-Prendergast’s goal tally rise through the first half Monday, he wasn’t surprised.

Forget the fact that it was the first game of the season, that it had been at least five years since the Friars had beaten Upper Darby, that lacrosse isn’t exactly synonymous with success at Bonner-Prendie.

So while Saraceni watched the scoreboard tick upward to eight, nine, 10 unanswered goals to start a highly-anticipated campaign, there wasn’t the slightest bit of shock at the damage he and his teammates were inflicting.

“We definitely went in confident, knowing that it was going to be a different year,’ Saraceni said of the 14-4 victory Bonner-Prendergast marched to over the Royals. “We knew it was going to be different this year. It’s probably one of the best teams we’ve had in a long time, and we knew it was going to be different.’

That optimism wasn’t dampened by the Friars’ opening foray. Playing on home turf, though it was technically Upper Darby’s home game, Bonner-Prendie laid on the offense from the start. They surged ahead after just 22 seconds, then doubled the lead 52 seconds later. The lead was nine at the half and was stretched to double-digits 100 seconds into the third quarter as Bonner held Upper Darby scoreless for the first 31 minutes of the contest.

Leading the parade of scoring was Jon Mathis, who scored three goals and added three assists. Saraceni and Ryan McDevitt provided three goals and an assist each, while Brendan Kelly inverted that score line with a goal and three helpers.

For a team facing five games this week and trying to build off last season’s success, it was the ideal start.

The key to taking the next step from last year’s 7-10 campaign that included qualifying for the Catholic League playoffs is cultivating a mentality like Saraceni’s. The players put in the requisite offseason work, including spending Sundays during the fall working out together. But just as important as all the conditioning and lifting is honing their psychological approach.

“(Last year), they still didn’t have this mindset that they can win every time out,’ Bonner-Prendie coach Guy Bottomley said. “A win like this sets the tone. Now they look at every game like a winning opportunity, which we haven’t always had here.

“It’s a change of a mindset. It’s good. It’s refreshing, and it’s definitely going to help us as far as momentum moving forward.’

Monday, there was no inkling of doubt against an Upper Darby squad on its own rebuilding arc.

James Doubet scored twice in the first quarter, with Mathis and McDevitt adding tallies. Saraceni and McDevitt found the back of the next twice each in the second stanza, the latter’s markers coming in the final 2:43 of the half to stake Bonner-Prendie to a 9-0 lead. Coupled with the work of Ronnie Shiler — who went 14-for-22 at the faceoff X, including a dominant 8-for-11 in the first half — the Friars hit the Royals with a trio of quick-strike goal combinations in the first half that left them reeling.

It wasn’t until 4:13 of the third quarter that Upper Darby got off the mark, Ryan Simpson setting up Jack Robinson for a tally. Simpson scored twice more in the third quarter, then Robinson added his second goal in the fourth. But it was too much for a young team playing its first game under new head coach Joe Niagara to overcome.

“We’re really young, so we tried encouraging our younger guys to stay calm, stay focused, get their hands free,’ said Simpson, one of the few veterans returning from last season. “It’s just the little things. They got overwhelmed a little bit, a little frustrated.’

Among the entrenched powers like La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep, the Friars are keeping their goals for the Catholic League realistic this season. Getting to .500 and hosting (and winning) a home playoff game would be the logical next step in the upward swing overseen by Bottomley.

If Monday’s opening salvo, calibrated against the measuring stick that is the Central League, is any indication, the Friars could be on the right track.

“It’s been really great because we’re getting a lot more notoriety in school,’ Mathis said. “Before, no one cared about us. But now, you see that we’ve got a little fan section, a lot of people coming to support us. It feels great.’

“I definitely think that we proved ourselves last year that we should be taken a little bit more seriously,’ Saraceni said. “People may think (we’re underdogs) this year, but I think this is one of the best teams we’ve had in a long time and we’re going to prove everybody wrong.’

In other nonleague action:

Avon Grove 12, Ridley 6: Brock Anderson scored twice, and Cade Stratton and Bill Rouse added a goal and an assist each, but it wasn’t enough for the Green Raiders to keep pace with the reigning District One champs.

Kennett 12, Cardinal O’Hara 6: Ryan McNichol and Michael Tulski scored twice each, but Kennett outscored the hosts 9-3 over the middle two quarters to make the difference.

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