To keep its dream of a second state Class B championship in three years alive, the Jamesville-DeWitt boys lacrosse team had to do something fundamental -- get the ball in the first place.
The inability to pull that off against Canandaigua in last Thursday night's state semifinal at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford had a lot to do with the Red Rams' 12-6 loss to the Braves.
During 17 different face-offs on the night, Canandaigua's Marshall Johnson won 15 of them, immediately putting J-D on the defensive. And while Gordie Gehring would offer brave resistance in the net, those lost face-offs eventually took a toll.
Canandaigua, from Section V, was already a formidable foe without the help. The Braves reached the state semifinals in 2008 in Class A before West Genesee knocked them out. Moved down to Class B this spring (lower enrollment), the Braves built an 18-game win streak leading into its match with the Red Rams.
Despite all this, J-D hit first, Jake Bratek scoring 2:17 into the game. But that would be the Rams' last goal for more than 21 minutes as Johnson's domination of the face-off circle led to plenty of Canandaigua possessions.
Forced to defend most of the time, the Rams held up, at least in the first quarter, as Gehring made a series of point-blank stops and kept the game 1-0. But the Braves landed three unanswered goals in the second quarter and moved out in front.
If any sequence proved crucial, it came as the second quarter wound down. Mac Keehfus ripped a shot past Braves goalie Nick King with 16.6 seconds left in the half, cutting the deficit to 3-2 and seemingly giving J-D some big momentum before halftime.
However, Johnson won yet another face-off and, exactly 10 seconds later, Bryan Peck beat Gehring, and the 4-2 halftime margin seemed a lot larger.