By Dave Kurtz
Courtesy of PAC-10Sports.com, Posted 5/10/13
With the clock winding down at the end of the second overtime, Paul Major found daylight off a hard screen in front of the net.
The clean look was all that was required for the Spring-Ford senior sniper, who fired in the winning goal at the 1:07 mark to lift Spring-Ford to a pulsating 10-9 double-OT victory over archrival Owen J. Roberts Thursday at Phoenixville, locking up the Rams’ third straight PAC-10 boys lacrosse title.
“It wasn’t a designed play,” said Major, a Delaware recruit. “We had two guys behind the net, and Christian (McCormick) set a pick and tied up one of their defenders. I got around the top side of the net and noticed one of their guys was down.”
As he has done so many times before in his phenomenal lacrosse career, Major buried the shot and the Wildcats with one swift stroke, setting off a wild celebration.
Right man, right spot for sure.
“Owen J. had a lot of opportunities (in the overtime), but we came up big at the defensive end,” said Spring-Ford coach Kevin Donnelly. “Once we got it down to the offensive end, we took care of business. We stayed patient, and Paul knew what to do with it.”
The overtime was set up when the Wildcats’ Nick Tordone fired home a bullet from the right side of the net with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation. Spring-Ford, which had scored in the final seconds of regulation to upend OJR in the 2012 final, controlled the draw following Tordone’s goal and got off two legitimate shots before the clock expired in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats, who got three goals from John Pennell (2 assists) and two strikes apiece from Will Snelling, Chris Antich and Tordone, set up shop in the offensive zone during the extra session, but failed to find the range.
“We had all kinds of opportunities, but didn’t take advantage of them,” said OJR coach Jeff Neese, whose club has met Spring-Ford in all seven boys lax championship clashes under the current format, winning in 2008, 2009, and 2010. “This was a tremendous game for the fans, the league and the sport of lacrosse. But I’m getting tired of being on the losing end of tremendous games.”
The start was anything but tremendous for the Cats, who followed a nagging trend by falling into a 3-0 hole early on. McCormick (3 goals, 2 assists) got Spring-Ford on the board with an unassisted strike at the 10:51 mark of the first quarter. Spring-Ford’s lead swelled to 5-1 by the end of the period, with Major scoring twice and Casey Pettine chipping in with two more, including one on a two-man advantage.
“I think we were anxious, and all the adrenaline was going,” said Neese of the sluggish start. “We were dropping balls and doing things we don’t normally do.”
The streaky Wildcats found their mojo in the middle periods behind Pennell, who collected two goals and one assist during a 5-0 run spanning the second and third quarters, forging a 6-6 standoff heading into the final 12 minutes.
“We had played great in the first quarter but in the second quarter we slipped up a little bit,” said Major, who ended a 22-minute, 14-second dry spell with an EMO goal 15 seconds into the fourth quarter.
After Pettine (assisted by McCormick) and Pennell (assisted by Antich) exchanged goals, Pettine restored the two-goal cushion by cashing in a Major assist for a 9-7 lead with 7:15 left.
Undeterred by the predicament, OJR closed within 9-8 when Snelling (goal) and Pennell collaborated with 3:21 remaining. Tordone got it to overtime with his unassisted strike at the 11-second mark.
“The game had a lot of ups and downs,” said Donnelly. “We played well at times. You always expect this kind of a game from Owen J. They always play hard.”
The effort was there for the Cats in OT, but the offensive execution wasn’t. Spring-Ford’s defense survived one test after another, eventually getting the ball down the field and into the right hands.
“Our goalie, Matt Messerle (16 saves) came up with some huge saves,” said Donnelly. “D.J. Young (two assists) was an iron-man for us. He hardly left the field. And our whole defense – Ian Hare, Kyle Hoffner and Troy Szostek – really stepped up.”
The true measure of greatness in any athlete is the ability to deliver when the stakes are high and the pressure is on. While getting plenty of help from his teammates, Major proved his greatness beyond a shadow of a doubt Thursday.
“This was a new experience for me,” said Major. “In my four years at Spring-Ford, I’ve never been in an overtime game.”
Spring-Ford 10, Owen J. Roberts 9
OJ Roberts 1 3 2 3 0 0 – 9
Spring-Ford 5 1 0 3 0 1 – 10
Owen J. Roberts
Chris Antich 2g, 1a
Nick Tordone 2g
John Pennell 3g, 2a
Sam Garges 3a
Will Snelling 2g
Christian Wood 16 saves
Christian McCormick 3g, 2a
Paul Major 3g, 1a (game-winning goal UA with 1:07 left in 2ndOT)
Casey Pettine 4g
D.J. Young 2a
Matt Messerle 16 saves