All the usual elements -- skill, poise, determination, discipline - were in place for the West Genesee boys lacrosse team as it went after its eighth straight Section III Class A championship Friday night at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium.
So it wasn't a surprise that the Wildcats beat Fayetteville-Manlius 11-9 to continue its own reign and also extend the Hornets' 16-year championship drought. What was surprising, though, was the way WG won it -- and how delighted head coach Mike Messere felt when it was done.
"This was a good team we beat, and this was exciting," Messere said. "To beat this team three times in a season was quite a feat for us."
Indeed it was an exciting affair, with numerous lead changes and momentum shifts, and the outcome in doubt until the last minutes, when all the Wildcats' championship experience -- plus a bit of surprise -- led to victory.
F-M jumped out to leads of 2-0 and 4-2 in the first half. Each time, WG came back, five different players scoring as it claimed a 6-5 lead by halftime.
Right away, the Hornets answered, with two goals in a span of nine seconds early in the third quarter to seize a 7-6 lead. But those would be F-M's lone tallies of the period as Jack Conboy, Joe Fazio, Joe Fletcher and the rest of WG's defense shut the door.
The tension only built in the fourth quarter. Both sides took one-goal leads. Both gave them up, as Matt Taylor's fifth goal with 3:43 left made it 9-9, the game's sixth tie.
Now, Messere said, "it was all about who could show the most heart at the end."
What followed in the next 25 seconds of game time decided the outcome.
F-M won the face-off, then called its last time-out, only to turn the ball over within seconds. As this was going on, Ike Hopper and John Glesener, harking back to their days of box lacrosse, devised a plan that would cripple the Hornets.