SPRINGFIELD >> The Pennridge boys lacrosse team made its debut in the PIAA tournament Wednesday night. And while host Springfield-Delco quickly made sure a first win at the level was not going to be in the cards in the Class 3A opening-round matchup, the Rams were optimistic the moment was another step in the program’s progression.
“It’s hard to put in the past Pennridge next to names like Springfield-Delco and all these top Central League teams and other teams like that,” Pennridge senior attacker Drew Ferguson said. “But then you look at us beating Conestoga this year (in districts) and playing with teams like that, it’s good for the program in the future.
“And I think us seniors and older guys can appreciate that we’ve kind of helped grow and maybe in the future where we can be labeled with those teams.”
Springfield, the District 1 champs, scored twice in the final minute of the first quarter to hold a 6-0 lead. The Cougars put together another late flurry just before halftime, finding the back of the net three times in the last 40 seconds – Jimmy Kennedy’s fifth and final tally with just 1.6 seconds left putting Springfield up 12-0 at the break.
“I think we came in with a lot of confidence and we had some rough practices to start off the week but I think we really dialed it in on Tuesday,” Rams junior attacker Ryan Carickhoff said. “So we came in here confident, guys in the locker room were excited to play. They came out and they punched us in the mouth first and they got there.”
Springfield eventually came away with a 17-3 victory, earning a quarterfinal matchup Saturday with District 7 champ Mount Lebanon.
And while the tough loss ends Pennridge’s year at 18-4, the Rams kept their heads high after making a 12-win improvement, claiming the Suburban One League National Conference outright title and pushing their season into June.
“Just playing after Memorial Day, playing after graduation,” Ferguson said. “It’s kind of like school’s done now, it’s just lacrosse even though I’m not even in school anymore.”
The Cougars extended their scoring run to 13 straight before Carickhoff finally broke through for Pennridge in the third quarter when he ripped a shot in from the right side.
“It came down, I was like ‘You know what screw this I’m going to go,’” Carickhoff said. “I kind of went, I noticed he kind of approached me topside so I was like ‘All right I’ll try and go right.’ I tried to put it back in my left hand, didn’t really work, I pounced out, I squared him up.
“And my perfect opportunity is to square a guy up and choose where I want to go so I put it in my left hand and just kind of went, turned the corner and scored.”
Matt Kriney and Kevin Matthews each collected a goal in the fourth for the Rams. Springfield finished with nine different goalscorers – Patrick Flaherty posting a hat trick while Sean Donaldson and Ty Henderson each chipped in two goals.
“They’re a great team, there always in this scenario and this is a team that we look up to as hopefully we can get to be someday,” Pennridge coach Chris Pianko said. “A couple of tough breaks, missed passes and dropped passes early that give them those second chances and they’re too good of a team not to take advantage of the second chances. And then, yeah, it starts quicksanding real fast.”
The Rams were just 6-12 in 2022 but opened this season with four straight wins before falling on the road to Owen J. Roberts 12 -7 April 1. Pennridge did not lose again in the regular season and capped a perfect 10-0 run in the SOL National with a 14-12 victory at home over Souderton May 9.
“I think we’ve started to find an identity for Pennridge lacrosse,” said Pianko, in his second season as head coach. “And it’s taken a little while and I think we were starting to get there and then COVID, which hit all the high schools. We had a young crew last year, a lot of kids that are juniors now were sophomore then and the year of experience helped them and hopefully another year of experience helps ‘em more and we can continue.
“But got to put in the hard work that we had in the offseason. It’s a lot easier to work hard when you’re 6-12 than it is when you’re 18-4 or whatever we ended.”
The Rams earned the third seed in the District 1-3A playoffs and stretched their winning streak to 13 by topping No. 14 Ridley 12-10 in the second round. In its first chance to clinch a PIAA bid, Pennridge was edged by No. 6 Wissahickon 10-9 in the quarterfinals, but the Rams rebounded in playbacks, topping No. 10 Conestoga 13-8 to earn their first state trip.
“I feel like we’ve been a little bit disrespected by the media,” Carickhoff said. “I mean the result of the scoreboard kind of understands why there’s a little bit of doubt in the media and I get it completely. But again I think we came into the season and a lot of our SOL teams were like ‘Yeah, I don’t know who these guys are.’ We came out, we punched a bunch of teams in the mouth.
“So again, this definitely a place I want to be again. This sucks and I’m not going to say losing doesn’t hurt but I dislike losing a lot more than I like winning.”