By Dave Kurtz
Courtesy of PAC-10Sports.com
Jeff Neese looked at the sign hanging from the chain-link fence at Hempfield’s stadium last Saturday and something clicked.
It read, “Tradition never graduates.”
Those compelling words hit home with the veteran Owen J. Roberts boys lacrosse coach, who’s seen the legacy he’s helped establish take a hit from Spring-Ford over the last two years.
The Wildcats had lost four straight to the Rams since the start of the 2011 season entering Monday night’s Pioneer Athletic Conference showdown, including a lopsided setback last May that ended OJR’s three-year run as league champions.
Neese and the Cats must have figured that enough is enough.
Reeling off eight unanswered goals spanning the first and second quarters, OJR got back on track against its fierce rival with a resounding 13-7 triumph over Spring-Ford Monday night.
The victory lifts the Wildcats (9-5 overall) into a first-place tie with the Rams at 9-1, and restored some of the mojo and swagger that had been waning.
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“We talk about tradition and the three straight years we were on top,” said Neese. “We were ready to play. The kids focused well and brought a lot of intensity. We have played well against some high-quality teams, and we were confident we could play with Spring-Ford.”
The Wildcats’ high confidence level was clearly visible at both ends of the field. They controlled possession, posted a decided advantage in groundballs and never backed down when the Rams’ high-octane offense moved into attack mode.
Fueled by the stellar work of goalie Matt Boyer (19 saves) and a balanced attack led by Chris Antich (3 goals, assist), there was no retreat or surrender from the perennial PAC-10 lax powerhouse.
There were other heroes for the Wildcats, who got two goals apiece from John Pennell, Tyler Graham, Nick Tordone (two assists) and Skyler Swope, but it was Boyer who clearly stole the show.
“Every time we play Spring-Ford, we really get up for the game,” said Boyer. “We wanted to show the league and the rest of the state what we can do. We stepped up – played great team defense and great team offense. It was a solid 48 minutes of lacrosse. We won the groundball battles, and made sure that Spring-Ford couldn’t breathe.”
The Rams, who grabbed an early 2-1 lead on goals by scoring machines Zach Monzo and Paul Major (hat trick), had their breath taken away during the Wildcats’ tide-turning, eight-goal run.
Nick Tordone got the burst started with an unassisted strike at the 3:46 mark of the first quarter before Swope, Ryan Kent and Pennell found the back of the net in rapid-fire succession to produce a 5-2 bulge entering the second quarter.
Graham, Antich, Swope and Mike Lenge followed suit in the first 5:26 of the second quarter for a 9-2 lead. The Rams were on their heels, trailing 10-3 by halftime, and never got closer than seven goals until a three-goal flurry in the final 3:16 made the outcome look closer than it really was.
“It was clear that Owen J. wanted that game badly,” said Spring-Ford coach Kevin Donnelly, whose club slipped to 10-3 overall. “They came out with more passion, and their goalie, Matt Boyer, was outstanding. We had some chances but we didn’t capitalize. They won the groundball battles, outworked us. We had beaten them in four straight games, and we came out flat.”
Spring-Ford 2-1-1-3 – 7
Owen J. Roberts 5-5-1-2 – 13
Zach Monzo 1g
Paul Major 3g, 1a
Justin Kelly 1g, 3a
Steve Bock 2g
Matt Messerle 13 saves
Owen J. Roberts
John Pennell 2g, 1a
Chris Antich 3g, 1a
Tyler Graham 2g, 1a
Ryan Kent 1g
Nick Tordone 2g, 2a
Skyler Swope 2g
Mike Lenge 1g
Dan Garges 1a
Matt Boyer 18 saves
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