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Late surge gives Downingtown East another one-goal victory over Garnet Valley

UWCHLAN >> Something had to give for Tuesday’s District 1 3A Boys Lacrosse Quarterfinal clash in the battle between ‘post-season Cinderella’ and the ‘one-goal wonders’ – also known as Garnet Valley and Downingtown East.

In the end, the result was eerily similar to an earlier regular season meeting, with the host Cougars clawing their way to a come-from-behind 10-9 thriller. It was an extraordinary clash, but a one-goal victory for the home team was not unusual. In fact, East now owns a 12-game winning streak, and five have been by a single goal — including a pair versus the Jaguars.

“I think it’s been an advantage playing in so many games like this one. They battle-test you,” said Cougars’ head coach Joe Horvath.

“It was a great comeback for (East),” added Garnet Valley head coach Frank Urso. “I’m sure Joe is really proud of his team and he should be.”

The fifth-seeded Cougars (18-2 overall) advance to Thursday’s district semifinal to face No. 1 seed Radnor. The 13th-seeded Jags (12-9 overall) will face No. 9 seed Kennett in the playbacks, also on Thursday.

“We are proud of the comeback and proud to move on,” Horvath said.

Facing its largest deficit of the entire season – 8-3 early in the second half – Downingtown East made some strategic moves that paid off and proceeded to score seven of the game’s final eight goals.

Attacker Jake Woodworth kick-started the comeback, and fellow senior T.J. Shillingford ended it with his only goal of the game with 1:25 on the clock. It broke a 9-9 tie and gave the Cougars their first lead since the opening quarter.

“It was our biggest deficit all season,” Horvath confirmed. “But the kids never panic, they believe in one another, and they are ready to take it to the end. They will always play to the end.”

Downingtown East’s (14) Jake McMahon tries to avoid Upper Dublin’s (13) Will Hoffman in earlier action. (PETE BANNAN-DAILY LOCAL NEWS)

Almost a month ago to the day, East edged the Jaguars 9-8 on the same field. But for a long stretch, it looked like Garnet Valley was going to cruise in the rematch. It all changed, however, when the Cougars actually took standout midfielder Bo Horvath off the field for most of their second half possessions, and inserted him into the faceoff circle.

“We are willing to adjust, and we have a few more in our pocket that we will use at some point,” Joe Horvath said.

“We knew we needed to make adjustments at the half,” Woodworth added. “I think our coaches did a great job of explaining to us what we needed to do. We didn’t keep running the same stuff over and over again on offense.”

Throughout the opening half, the Jags face-guarded Bo Horvath and held him without a goal or an assist. Without that option in the second half, it opened things up for Woodworth and company.

“It’s fine with me if (East) wants to take their best player out,” Urso said. “But Joe (Horvath) did that because he has a lot of good players, and he can play without Bo.”

The comeback began with a goal by junior Luke Fiorillo midway through the third period. And then Woodworth took over, scoring two goals and assisting on another to Fiorillo. It all happened in a frenzied five-minutes-plus stretch, and by the end of the quarter, a five-goal deficit was sliced to 8-7.

“The start we getting possession of the ball,” Woodworth said. “We are a super-scrappy team and we started getting the 50-50 ground balls. It gave us the opportunity to get shots on cage, and get it going.”

Senior Colin Smith registered Garnet Valley’s final goal early in the fourth on a play where he fell down, got up and scored. But less than two minutes later, Woodworth notched his third of the half, and fourth of the game, and then junior Jake McMahon bounced one in with 3:48 to go to tie it.

“Bo (Horvath) does such a tremendous job that opponents have so much respect for him and recognize they have to do something to take him out of the game,” Woodworth explained. (Garnet Valley) wanted the rest of our offense to make plays, and in the end we figured it out.

“We are getting pretty good at doing that.”

In the opening minute of the final period, Shillingford had a two-on-one fastbreak but was stonewalled by Jag’s goaltender Drew Keaveney. Undaunted, he scored the game-winner with 75 seconds remaining when a shot by Woodworth was knocked down by Keaveney, corralled by Shillingford and deposited into the net.

“The (two-on-one) was a pass from Bryson (Kolinsky),” Shillingford recalled. “I heard all of my coaches saying the same thing: ‘forget about it – move on. Don’t let it affect your game.’ And I didn’t.

“The rebound landed right on my stick. I would say it’s the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”

East keeper Brady Quinn had 10 saves for the game, but he came up with two big stops in the final five minutes: one on a shot by senior Kris Henning and another in the final minute from Smith.

Garnet Valley’s Kai Lopez won six of nine faceoffs in the first half, but against Bo Horvath, it was 5-5 in the second half.

“(Garnet Valley’s) zone defense was tough but we made some adjustments,” Joe Horvath said. “We were more patient, we had better off-ball movement, we were better on ground balls and our defense played soundly and gave us a chance.

“And one of the best adjustments we made was putting Bo on faceoff. Even if he didn’t win it, he made it a battle along with his two wings.”

The Cougars actually got off to a great start with three goals in the opening five minutes of play, but the Jaguars roared back to score six in a row – to make it 7-3 at the half. Henning scored all three of his goals in the surge, and teammate Joshua Graham added a goal and two assists.

“There were a lot of big runs in this game,” Urso said. “(East) got up 3-1, we scored seven in a row to make it 8-3 and they came back.

“This is a heartbreaker, but it’s not devastating because we still have a game to play. We can’t get hung up on a loss – it’s done and we have to move on.”

Garnet Valley – who won the district crown in 2018 as a 15th seed – also made an impressive postseason push a year ago as a longshot, this time in the PIAA Tournament.

“I reminded our players several times that we lost (a district quarterfinal) game last year to Unionville, but we rallied, got into states and made it all the way to the state title game,” Urso said.

Meanwhile, the Cougars are looking to advance to the program’s second straight district final.

“Sometimes we aren’t as ready as we should be, but once it hits halftime, everybody comes together,” Shillingford said. “Going into the second half we kind of found our footing.

“And that’s exactly what we expected to do.”

Downingtown East 10, Garnet Valley 9

Garnet Valley                                   4 3 1 1 — 9

Downingtown East                         3 0 4 3 — 10

Garnet Valley goals: Henning 3, Smith 2, Burba, Myers, Graham, Saccomandi.

Downingtown East goals: Woodworth 4, Fiorillo 2, Waite, Kolinsky, McMahon, Shillingford.

Goalie saves: Keaveney (GV) 6; Quinn (DE) 10.







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