Springfield goes Long to pull out win over Spring-Ford

LOWER MERION — In the biggest moment, the biggest spot of the season, Tom Lemieux didn’t hesitate to call his freshman’s number.

Kyle Long didn’t hesitate to seize the spotlight.

His goal with 13 seconds remaining gave Springfield a thrilling 9-8 victory over Spring-Ford Saturday at Harriton High School in the District One quarterfinals. The win clinched a berth in the PIAA Tournament for the Cougars.

“It means a lot that Coach has the confidence (in me) to get it done,’ Long said. “Playing in the Central League, you go through a lot. It’s kind of normal now.’

Springfield took possession with a little over two minutes to go and outright held the ball starting at the 40-second mark. It wanted to get one last good shot on goal. Lemieux initially wanted to go through Lucas Spence, who had his team’s first five goals of the game, but the opportunity wasn’t there.

Eventually, it was Long’s ball. His followed with a clean game-winner.

“The kid is so athletic, you can’t keep up with him,’ Lemieux said. “I have 100 percent confidence in him.’

The moment did not get to Long. His goal sends No. 4 Springfield (15-4) to Tuesday’s semifinals, where it will face No. 9 Central Bucks East. No. 5 Spring-Ford (21-2) slides into a playback, also Tuesday, against top-seed Garnett Valley.

The Rams fell into a Spence-induced 3-0 hole. They climbed out of it, and eventually led, 5-4, at halftime, but the damage was done early. Coach Kevin Donnelly knew it.

“Give the credit to them, they played hard for 48 minutes,’ he said. “No. 9 (Spence) killed us. We let one guy take over the game.’

In all, Spence had those five goals and one assist. But he didn’t find the scorebook in the fourth quarter, and Springfield was more than him. James Spence, Lucas’ brother, had seven saves — none bigger than a stonewalling of Zach Hare on the game’s final shot.

Long’s goal was the winner. That save was the clincher.

“It’s special with how competitive lacrosse is in this area,’ Lemieux said. “You’ve got to cherish it.’

Springfield led, 7-6, after three quarters, which is when the teams started trading goals. Austin Pecharo for Spring-Ford to tie it, Mike Gerzabek for Springfield for the lead, Carter Gensler for Spring-Ford to tie it again. After that, nearly nine minutes passed before Long’s winner.

For the Cougars, the drama and suspense was well worth it. They are going to the state tournament again. That’s not lost on this group.

“It’s not easy to do that,’ Long said. “We still got two games.’

Echoing his coach — “We look at the next day,’ as Lemieux put it — the Cougars know there is more work to do before the real party starts. They will not give themselves too much time to celebrate.

“We can’t worry about what’s happened,’ Lemieux said. “We gotta worry about what’s next.’

As for Spring-Ford, it will simply have to regroup. A play away from a victory, seconds from overtime, the Rams know it won’t be easy to digest this one. But they have to.

“Come out on Monday, have a hard practice, know who we’re matching up with and just play our hearts out,’ said Hare, who had two goals in the game.

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