May 31, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Everyone associated with the Jamesville-DeWitt boys lacrosse team had carried the dark memory of a dispiriting loss to New Hartford in the 2006 Section III Class B final for a full 12 months, and used it as motivation to get things right in ’07.
Thanks to ferocious defense and maximum intensity, the Red Rams are back on top.
J-D finished its run to the sectional championship last Wednesday night, at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium, where it took charge against Cortland in the second half and beat the Purple Tigers 11-6.
Senior defender Brian Karalunas said the ’06 finals defeat fueled his team’s effort all season, especially in the title game.
“We knew how terrible that felt, and we were not going to feel that way again,” he said.
This was J-D’s third sectional title in five years, to go with victories in 2003 and 2005. But this was the first championship won by second-year head coach Jamie Archer.
“It feels good,” said Archer. “(A year ago), we underestimated New Hartford. But we knew how good this team (Cortland) was. We came out ready to play and were fired up.”
A lot of that fire, said Archer, came from the fact that Cortland had marched onto J-D’s rain-soaked turf on May 1 and beaten the Rams, leaving another reminder for J-D that reclaiming its crown would not be easy.
As always with J-D, the defense formed the foundation for victory. Going in, the Rams knew it had to contain Joel White, the Syracuse University-bound anchor of the Purple Tigers’ attack. And it had done so before, holding White without a point in an April 5 overtime victory in wintry conditions.
Plus, the Rams’ back line stewed about the fact that, in the Class B semifinals on May 26, it had allowed 13 goals to East Syracuse-Minoa, an uncharacteristic effort that, if repeated, would mean doom against Cortland.
At first, though, it was the Purple Tigers that had things going well. A slew of J-D penalties aided Cortland as it sprinted to a 4-1 lead early in the second quarter, in full pursuit of its first sectional title since 1988.
“We came out real tight,” said Archer. “But our defense kept us in it.”
Indeed, that back line did a full number on White. At times, it even took penalties to get White out of his rhythm. Eventually, all that work paid off.
“The key to our defense is tenacity,” said Karalunas. “We give a commitment to it, and it shows in the games.”
By not letting Cortland get away in these early stages, the defense gave the Red Rams time to get its attack going. It slowly cut the deficit to 4-3, then used goals by George Kingma and Jim Marshall to seize a 5-4 lead just before halftime.
“We did not want to force anything,” said Marshall. “We kept our patience and let the game come to us.”
White, shut out in the first half, scored 1:55 into the third quarter to tie the game, 5-5. It was the only point White would get all night, and Cortland would not score again for a span of more than 18 minutes — time enough for J-D to take charge for good.
Defensive depth played a big role. Karalunas, Rob Cooper and Jared Nies formed the starting back line, with Dan Perl on the long stick. Add reserves Paul Romano, Jake Liebman and Mike Fiacco, plus a stellar night from goalie Zack Paz (who had 16 saves), and it produced an unbeatable resistance.
“Our defense played outstanding,” said Archer.
And the attack soon caught up, too. Christian Daly’s goal early in the third quarter put J-D ahead for good and began a decisive 5-0 run.
All game long, Daly served as the spark, piling up four assists to go with his pair of goals. Often, those passes went to Marshall, whose four goals led all individuals. Jeff Vetter, Mike Edwards, Mike Centra and John Clark would add single tallies in the second half to put the Purple Tigers away.
On Saturday, J-D goes to SUNY-Potsdam to play in the first round of the regional playoffs, hoping to win there and return to CNS Tuesday for the regional finals.