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PAC-10 boys’ semifinals: Spring-Ford, Owen J. Roberts head to finals again

Wednesday, 8th May 2013

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School, Posted 5/8/13
Courtesy of Dave Kurtz,

It has become one of life’s certainties – inevitable as death and taxes.

Every spring, when the Pioneer Athletic Conference stages its boys’ lacrosse championship, Spring-Ford and Owen J. Roberts are guaranteed to be standing at center stage.

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The familiar plot unfolded again Tuesday night at Phoenixville’s Washington Field in the semifinal round of the PAC-10 Final Four playoffs. Top-seeded Spring-Ford rode its superior firepower to a 20-12 victory over upstart Boyertown in the opener, and No. 2 OJR followed the script with a come-from-behind 11-7 conquest of Methacton.

In all seven years the current playoff format has been in existence, it’s been the same two combatants lining up for a shot at the title.

Talk about Groundhog Day.

“We got down three goals, and we can’t do that against Spring-Ford,” said OJR coach Jeff Neese, whose club fell behind 3-0 when Methacton’s Keith White scored off an assist from Luke Herber at the 10:42 mark of the second quarter. “We’re a sporadic team that gets spurts. We can be very good when we go on one of those streaks.”

The Wildcats (14-5) were very good during a 7-1 run that closed out the half. Getting goals from six different players – Ethan Blye (2), Austin Delgatto, Ben Hiltebeitel, Chris Antich, Sean Kent and Sam Garges – during its 8-minute, 36-second blitz, OJR moved in front to stay, 7-4, at the break. Two of those tide-turning strikes resulted from a 3-minute penalty that clearly deflated the Warriors.

“You can’t do down 3 minutes locked in (non-releasable penalties),” said Methacton coach Nat Ryan. “They’re too talented a team for that. We executed well in the first quarter and Ben Miller played a tremendous game for us on defense.

“But we couldn’t keep them out of transition and their depth showed. In the end, it got away from us. We couldn’t clear and we didn’t possess the ball in the second half. Their execution was better.”

OJR, playing without its leading scorer Ryan Kent (dislocated knee), had nine different players get into the scorebook – with Blye, Antich and Sam Garges collecting two goals apiece. Methacton (10-8), which got two goals apiece from White and Matt McClay, never got closer than three in the second half as the Wildcats controlled the ball and the tempo.

“We know we’re able to come back from adversity,” said OJR midfielder Nick Tordone of the slow start. “We never lost faith or confidence in each other. We were able to respond in the second quarter. Our defense stepped up and our offense was finding the seams. It’s a game of runs, and we had them at the right time.”

The runs were keyed by the strong face-off work of Dan Garges, who went a combined 10-16 in draws from the second period on.

“The other team can’t score when we have possession,” said Tordone, who chipped in with one goal and one assist. “It’s been a big adjustment playing without Ryan Kent, who’s been our top scorer. But he was there on the sidelines with another one of our injured guys, Skyler Swope, lending support and giving us energy.”

Spring-Ford, the two-time defending PAC-10 champions, has multiple energy sources. But the main power thrust Tuesday came from a pair of high-voltage players – Paul Major and Christian McCormick.

The dynamic duo combined for 11 goals and 5 assists to end Boyertown’s stirring run to the playoffs. Spring-Ford (14-4) seized control with a 4-0 edge in the first period and seemed to have an answer for every surge by the Bears (10-8), who got into the playoffs with a pair of dramatic wins over Perkiomen Valley in a three-day stretch.

“We knew Boyertown would be hungry,” said McCormick, who had five goals and one assist. “But we were in playoff mode. We know exactly what it takes and our confidence is high.”

The Rams had some anxious moments when Boyertown closed within 14-12 on a pair of EMO goals early in the fourth quarter, but did a masterful job killing off the power play in the final frame. Major and McCormick then combined to get three goals apiece down the stretch to seal the deal.

“We knew they were hot and we wanted to play into their intensity,” said Spring-Ford defenseman Ian Hare. “We got the early momentum that we strive for, but we know we have to maintain that and play a 48-minute game. Pride is a big thing with us.”

Keying the Bears were senior anchors Chris Lees (6 goals, assist), Tyler Fuhrman (4 goals, assist) and goalie Austin Mutter (17 saves).

“It was 14-12 and we started pressing,” said Boyertown coach Geoff Davidson. “We squandered some opportunities with the two-man advantage and that seemed to deflate us. I’m proud of our team the way we kept fighting. We were right there but we couldn’t get over the hump. Spring-Ford is a different type of animal.”

That animal reared its head when the chips were down, especially when several ill-timed penalties had the Rams seemingly cornered in the final quarter.

“Our defense came up really big when they had to,” said Spring-Ford coach Kevin Donnelly. “Our goalie (Matt Messerle) had some big saves. Ian Hare is our defensive captain, and he did the job for us along with our other guys (Troy Szostek, Kyle Hoffner).”

Now, the Rams are right where they always expected to be.

“We want to keep the tradition going,” said Hare, headed to Towson. “We know it’s not a right, but a privilege.” and are content sharing partners

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