Even with injuries to both its offensive and defensive leaders late in the season, the Jamesville-DeWitt boys lacrosse team would not be denied as it charged to its first back-to-back Section III titles since 1992 and '93.
And what the state no. 1-ranked Red Rams showed, in Wednesday night's 11-8 victory over Auburn in the Class B final at Cicero-North Syracuse's Bragman Stadium, was just how much the defense has flowed along.
Much was made of the broken collarbone Jake Bratek suffered in the last week of the regular season. But in a May 11 win over Homer, the Rams suffered a similar blow when leading defender Davi Sacco was lost for the season with another injury.
And just as Jordan Evans took Bratek's spot and the attack kept on producing big numbers, Nick Firman took over Sacco's job on the back line, and J-D has remained stingy.
"Year in and year out, our defense has been holding teams to low numbers," head coach Jamie Archer said. "These guys are holding down the fort."
Much defense would be required against Auburn, who moved down from the Class A ranks for the first time this spring and built its run to the finals on controlling the game's tempo, never letting opponents run.
That happened here, too, even though J-D bolted out to a 4-0 lead in the first quarter and didn't allow a goal until Connor Entenmann converted 3:31 into the second period.
"That start was the difference," Archer said. "We wanted them to play our style, so we had to jump on them early."
Stung by the Rams' quick start, Auburn settled into the slower pace it wanted before halftime, then stayed there for much of the night, forcing the Rams' back line into extended work.
Nick Firman, Mac Feiner and Dima Bakrukov, backed up by Matt Firman and Matt Kopp, kept at home and forced the Maroons into low-percentage shots, many of which goalie Dan DiStefano would scoop up.