For anyone partial to the West Genesee boys lacrosse team, the sight of the Wildcats beaten by a sizable margin, as Jamesville-DeWitt did with a 16-8 victory in last Tuesday night's season opener in Camillus, is jarring.
Simply put, the Wildcats are used to winning -- regular season, post-season, any season -- and when the rare defeats arrive, they become milestones for the conquerors.
Yet close followers knew that, at least in the early portion of the 2010 season, head coach Mike Messere and his long-time assistant, Bob Deegan, would have more work on their hands than normal.
Eight starters graduated from the 2009 squad that went 19-2 and snared the program's eighth consecutive Section III Class A title before a 6-2 regional loss to Ithaca. That group included Jim Marks, Joe Fazio, Jack Conboy, Ike Hopper, Steve Mahle and Jordan Rogers.
Just two starters -- midfielder John Glesener and defender Joe Fletcher -- are back, with the rest of the lineup populated by last spring's reserves or varsity newcomers, including junior Tim Birchler, who succeeds Mahle in goal.
All this new and untested talent would face up with J-D, a state Class B semifinalist in '09 with lots of stars back and a reasonable expectation to go all the way to the state championship this time.
For a while, the Wildcats were able to keep up. It even took three different leads (2-1, 3-2 and 5-4) in the first half as Glesener scored twice and Bob Gasparini, Casey Schattner and Corey Herrington took turns getting goals.
But led by Jake Bratek's first-half hat trick, J-D seized a 6-5 lead by halftime, and after Tim Barber converted early in the third quarter to tie it again at 6-6, the Rams really took over.
Eric DeJohn scored less than a minute after Barber's tally, beginning a burst of five unanswered goals that covered a good portion of the third quarter. By the time it was done, it was 11-6, and DeJohn launched another flurry with a goal just eight seconds into the final period.
All told, Bratek had six goals and one assist, with DeJohn finding the net four times and Cam Stone earning a three-goal hat trick, all of which overcame Birchler's 10 saves as WG's once-vaunted defense could not handle J-D's potency.
On its side, the Wildcats saw Glesener score three times, with Gasparini and Herrington each finding the net twice. Pat Brown and Dylan Donahue each had one assist.