BUCKTOWN >> If defense wins championships, the Spring-Ford boys lacrosse team was on good footing.
Even their attackers wanted in on the act.
“This year from the start, (Coach Kevin Donnelly) has stressed riding and our goal every game is to create a number of ride-back goals. For our attack line we really think that’s important,” senior attackman Jake Hvazda said.
Thanks to a dominant second quarter ignited by the Rams’ usual lockdown defense and a ridiculous ride that left the Wildcats under pressure and unable to get into transition, Spring-Ford scored six consecutive goals.
Six was a magic number Thursday night as Spring-Ford proce
eded to claim a sixth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship with 12-8 victory over archrival Owen J. Roberts in the league final at OJR.
“Playing Owen J. in the PAC-10 championship game, we know they are going to come hard the whole time. Last time we played them we kind of rolled over them and we knew they weren’t going to give up anything this time,” Hvazda said.
“Knowing it would be a battle and coming through – like we did all four years – it feels great.”
It marked the 10th time in a row – every year of the league’s existence – Spring-Ford and OJR have met in the league final. It’s a spot the Rams have started to own, but that doesn’t take any bit from the occasion.
“As much as we want to treat it like another game, it really never is. It’s a championship with Owen J. and it’s got that different feel to it. We’re going to get each other’s best. It’s a rivalry and everyone’s amped up for it,” senior defender Liam Hare said.
The Rams seniors have never known defeat in the PAC playoffs and completed a third straight perfect season against league opposition. Hvazda (2 goals) and Kevin Todd (1 goal, 2 assists) key the attack, Matt DellaCroce and Justin Schwenk the dynamic duo on the faceoffs and goalie Chris Morgan and defenders Hare and Nick Crawford drive the defense.
Seniors weren’t the only stars as sophomore Jarrod Marenger was tops with three goals and two assists, junior midfielder Ray Orcutt had three goals and junior middie Danny Cassidy had two goals and an assist.
Orcutt bouncer for 2-0 SF pic.twitter.com/amsDWLmKvE
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) May 12, 2016
Owen J. Roberts (13-6) got two goals and two assists from Jack Colt and a pair from Austin Koury.
A 2-1 first quarter lead for the Rams (19-1) shot to an 8-1 lead at halftime, which was punctuated by a forced turnover at midfield followed by Todd connecting with Hvazda on the fast break for a goal.
“The first quarter we came out and we were definitely hyped up,” OJR senior Andrew O’Brien said. “The coaches did a great job getting us ready and coach Ben (Carville) gave a great pregame speech. Everybody was full tilt ready to go and that showed in the first quarter.
“Second quarter, I don’t know if was a lack of mental toughness, but we fell apart. The second quarter really killed us.”
For their part, the Wildcats stayed the course and ‘won’ the second half 7-4.
They cut it to 8-3 on goals from Koury and Colt early in the third quarter but could never get into true striking distance with the Rams giving no freebies.
Spring-Ford’s pedigree carried it through.
“The experience we have being here, we know Owen J.,” Hare said “They outplay us sometimes – they’re a streaky team and they have those flashes of playing excellent lacrosse. But the things that holds us in the games and allows us to stay on top is the composure and experience.”
Despite missing out on the upset bid, the Wildcats don’t need to lick their wounds.
“I think everybody on our team knew we were heavy underdogs, but the fact that we could lay it all out on the field and give as much effort as possible showed how tough we are as a team to hang in there,” O’Brien said. “I’m really proud of the team in general to remain tough and give the best effort. If you lose giving it the best effort there’s nothing wrong with that.”
It’s not the end for OJR, which will qualify for the District 1 playoffs, beginning Tuesday.
It’s not the end for Spring-Ford either. More likely, the beginning.
“It starts all over. It’s square one again. We are going to come out and work like we haven’t won anything yet,” Hare said. “A PAC-10 championship is great, it’s great to have another plaque, but as far as we’re concerned we’re not happy yet. We want to keep going and go farther than we did last year and reach new goals and new heights. We want to break records and reach the heights and lengths we think this team is capable of.”
“Last year we fell short and that’s still in our heads. Districts will be really huge. The goal is states and to go all the way, but we can’t look ahead,” Hvazda said. “We’re excited.”
NOTES >> Completing the scoring was, for SF: Drew Giovinco (1G) and Ryan Rosenblum (1A); for OJR: Joe Tordone (1G), Austin Delgatto (1G, 1A), Noah Calle (1G), O’Brien (1A), Ben Gindhart (1G). … Spring-Ford will likely receive a first-round bye for districts as a top 4 seed while OJR will be on the road. In the current LaxPower rankings, the Rams sit at No. 3, Wildcats at No. 24.
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) May 12, 2016