Apr 05, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
No matter the season, and no matter the sport, West Genesee senior Luke Cometti has demonstrated an uncanny ability to produce in the most pressure-packed situations.
Back in the fall, Cometti three times connected on field goals in the final seconds or in overtime that helped the football Wildcats win games. His successful kick as time ran out in the Section III Class AA final against Cicero-North Syracuse produced a championship and began WG’s unlikely run toward a state title.
Now it’s the spring, and it’s lacrosse season, but some things never change.
Cometti assumed the leadership role in the fourth quarter of last Friday’s game against archrival Fayetteville-Manlius, as his big plays helped the Wildcats beat the Hornets 8-5.
So ended an eventful first seven days of the 2008 season, one where WG took on three quality opponents and beat them all by three-goal margins — proving early that it could withstand a serious crisis.
Back in the March 29 opener against Downingtown East, senior Ryan Barber, the team’s top returning scorer from 2007, injured his foot while making a cut near the net.
Days later, Barber had surgery on that foot, and he will likely miss the regular season. Barber said he hopes to be back in late May, just in time for the playoffs.
From a lineup perspective, this meant that junior Ike Hopper would take over Barber’s place in the starting lineup. It also meant that Cometti would assume much more responsibility as the team’s offensive captain.
The F-M game would prove an accurate gauge on where the team stood. As usual, the Hornets are brimming with talented athletes and are committed to gaining a sectional title, something it hasn’t been able to pull off since 1993.
As a big crowd looked on in Camillus, the two rivals had a 2-2 exchange in the first quarter before F-M made its biggest move of the night.
Matt Taylor scored midway through the second period, giving the Hornets a 3-2 lead, and Mike O’Neil converted less than two minutes later to make it 4-2, the biggest deficit the Wildcats had faced this season.
But that lasted mere seconds, thanks to Cometti. He stepped in front of an errant F-M clearing pass, then walked in and scored to cut the margin to 4-3, and that stood up well into the third quarter.
Tim Besio tied it late in the third period, only to have Mike Poppleton answer less than two minutes later to put F-M back in front, 5-4. Poppleton finished with two goals, but did not dominate in his specialty of face-offs as sophomore John Glesener held his own in the center X.
All this led to Cometti taking over. With 6:42 to play, he took a pass from Mike Fetterly, charged in and flicked a shot past F-M goalie Chris Miles, giving WG its first lead of the night.
Controlling the clock and the ball after that goal, the Wildcats stayed patient, then watched Cometti feed Conor Regin on the doorstep for a goal with 3:29 left to make it 7-5. Less than a minute later, Cometti did the same thing to set up Fetterly’s insurance tally.
As they had done before, WG’s defense stood out, as Ben Waldron, Joe Fazio, Jack Conboy and the rest of the back line kept F-M from ever building a big lead when it was out in front and blanked them over the game’s last 14-plus minutes. Steve Mahle, in goal, had 13 saves, exactly matching Miles.
Back on Tuesday, the same day that Barber got his medical diagnosis, the Wildcats went west to take on Section V power Irondequoit, the team it beat in last year’s state Class A semifinal.
With Cometti, and the defense, taking over in the second half, WG would once more beat the Eagles, by the same 7-4 margin by which it beat Downingtown East in the March 29 season opener.
Here, the sequence was a bit different. Irondequoit went up 2-1 in the first quarter, only to have WG catch up and go to halftime with a 3-3 tie.
Then, led by Cometti, the Wildcats scored four times in the third period to go in front for good. Overall, Cometti finished with four goals and one assist, while Fetterly scored twice and Hopper got the other tally.
Meanwhile, WG’s back line clamped down, blanking Irondequoit in the fourth quarter to prevent any comeback. Mahle, good enough to be an alternate on last summer’s Empire State Games Central region team as a sophomore, had another strong effort, stopping 13 of the 17 shots he faced.
After this exciting start, the Wildcats look to settle down a bit this week in home games against Liverpool and varsity newcomer Utica Proctor.
(Editor’s note: In an earlier piece on the team, we had two pieces of incorrect information. West Genesee’s run of four consecutive state titles came from 2002 to 2005, and it lost each of the last two state finals to West Islip.)