By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/28/09
The La Salle team that so many expected to dominate this year was exactly that today – completely dominant.
Randy Forster scored five goals and Tyler Knarr controlled the possessions by winning 19 of 22 face-offs as the host Explorers thrashed St. Joseph’s Prep, 16-6, in a Catholic League cross-over game between the two top teams in the Phillylacrosse.com Boys’ Rankings.
La Salle, ranked No. 3 in the PA Media Rankings and No. 2 in the region by Phillylacrosse.com, improved to 8-3 and won its seventh straight game. The Prep (7-1), fresh off its emotional 12-11 overtime win over previously-undefeated Conestoga Saturday at the Katie Samson Festival and ranked first in the state, fell to 7-1.
The Explorers, who started the season with a 6-3 loss to Conestoga and then overtime defeats to Baltimore powers Gilman School and Calvert Hall in Games 3 and 4, have quietly emerged in recent weeks. Knarr said the team may have turned the corner Saturday at Katie Samson when it ripped Haverford School, 10-4.
“I feel like on Saturday we started feeling that and it carried over into this game with the pace we kept,” Knarr said. “It feels good to beat up on our rival. I didn’t expect it (a rout), but I expected us to come out with the firepower we did.”
The Explorers showed excellent ball movement and crisp execution on attack, while Knarr gave them nearly every possession and also scored two goals off fastbreaks. Peter Schwartz added three goals and Westy Hopkins scored twice while Kevin Forster, Derek Bogorowski, Dan Losier and Nick Cruise scored one apiece as the Explorers led 5-0 after one quarter and 9-2 at halftime.
Defensively, the Explorers shut down the Hawks’ attack that gave Conestoga fits on limited possessions Saturday. The Prep managed just three goals in the first three quarters; Brendan Glynn had three goals, but only one until the final quarter. When St. Joe’s did mount a challenge, senior goalie Niko Amato (six saves) was steady.
“We did this drill called ‘King of the Hill’ during practice to defend our spot,” Knarr said “It kind of got us in the zone to defend our spot and hold our ground. We had all the seniors defend the ball at the top of the hill and it was symbolic of defending the trophy.”
One thing that has helped La Salle is Knarr’s improved health. The All-American long stick middie who has signed with Georgetown was coming off major knee surgery and had barely played when the season began.
Today he was not only winning face-offs, he was driving to the goal and stripping attackers like he did last year.
“I was kind of slow getting back into form at first,” Knarr said. “Along with the team, I am getting back into it. I am feeling the team’s fire.”
Knarr admitted the team is more at ease without the lofty expectations and media pressure it faced at the outset of the season.
“We’re sneaking back into it,” he said. “I like it better that way. We had a bulls-eye on our back in the beginning of the season.”
The Prep may have snuck up on some people this year, but after taking the No. 1 spot in every ranking (including the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association poll), the Hawks must now regroup.
“They executed and the bottom line is we didn’t,” said St. Joe’s coach Eric Gregg, who also got goals from Cory Scheuerle, Colin Fleming and Kenny Lankford. “I told the kids way back in the beginning of the season it would always come down to the little things.
“We didn’t follow the game-plan and didn’t execute, and that’s on me and the coaching staff. Next time we’ll have to get it done the right way. I would think with this kind fo rivalry this wouldn’t happen, but they are high school kids.”