No one needed to remind the Jamesville-DeWitt boys lacrosse team that Cortland offered a serious threat to the Red Rams' quest for both league and sectional championship glory.
And that threat became much more pronounced last Tuesday night, when the Red Rams suffered an 8-6 defeat to the Purple Tigers on its own home field.
Even though J-D had plenty of chances to take over this game, Cortland denied them, using a pair of well-timed scoring spurts and fantastic work in goal by Zach Zayac down the stretch to come out on top.
This was the continuation of a battle first commenced in the snow April 5 at SUNY-Cortland. There, the Purple Tigers dragged the Red Rams into overtime before Jim Marshall's goal, off a great feed from Christian Daly, won it 8-7.
Cortland had not lost since that game, while J-D's lone blemish came at the expert hands (and sticks) of West Genesee on April 14. Both had run over every Class B opponent, too.
Rain and mud replaced the snow of the earlier meeting. But while the conditions changed, the intensity did not, resulting in another high-wire classic.
Cortland star Joel White, held without a point by J-D's defense the first time around, changed that equation by scoring from the top of the circle 1:12 into the game.
Goals by Mike Edwards and Daly put the Rams up, 2-1, but the Purple Tigers quickly recovered to forge a 2-2 tie, which stood until the second quarter.
Then, in a span of eight seconds, Taylor Brown notched back-to-back goals that pushed Cortland to a 4-2 lead. Unfazed, the Rams got even again on goals by Marshall and Mac Keefus, and the sides went to halftime in that 4-4 deadlock, as evenly matched as they were 26 days before.
For a while in the third period, neither side could break the tie. But then Jack Spallone scored midway through that quarter, igniting a run where, in less than two minutes, the Purple Tigers scored three times, pushing to a 7-4 lead.
J-D got back within two, 7-5, then camped out in Cortland's end during a relentless fourth-quarter assault, taking more than enough shots to catch up.
Somehow, Zayac stopped most of them, including many point-blank chances. The Purple Tigers goalie finished with 14 saves, and his ability to stay cool in the game's most tense moments put his team on top.
Cortland would tack on an insurance goal when Nate Thomas scored from the left with 3:08 left. By winning, the Purple Tigers caught J-D atop the Class B standings, each of them with 7-1 league marks.