The way it all worked out, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys lacrosse team would face its most severe regular-season examination right at the end - four games against Auburn, Corcoran, Cicero-North Syracuse and West Genesee.
And it didn't take long for things to get tight and interesting - not to mention stressful for any Hornets partisan.
On a gloomy Tuesday night at Holland Stadium, F-M took on Auburn. In a game-long staring contest, the Hornets blinked one time less - and held on to beat the Maroons 5-4.
The game featured two strong, experienced and physical defenses, playing on the same green grass where, two weeks earlier, Auburn (who will move down to Class B for the playoffs) lost a narrow 6-5 decision to West Genesee.
Thus, it was little surprise that F-M, averaging 16 goals a game entering the night, would never get close to that mark, and have to fight all 48 minutes to keep itself undefeated.
Andrew Chadderdon hit first for Auburn just 2:02 into the game. But the Maroons would not score again until the third quarter as Bennett Sluis, Andrew Fletcher, Matt Moro, John Bonsted and the rest of F-M's defense clamped down.
Still, the Hornets could not take full advantage, only getting one goal in each of the first two periods and taking a 2-1 lead to the break, by far its smallest halftime margin of the season.
When Chadderdon fed Matt Festa for a goal to tie it 2-2 midway through the third quarter, it set off the game's lone offensive exchange. Twice, F-M would score, but both times Auburn would answer, leaving it 4-4 going into the final period.
Again, a stalemate ensued, both teams patiently probing and looking for the tie-breaker. Finally, with 4:25 left, Ari Waffle flung a hard shot past Adam Perri to push F-M ahead once more.
Now the Hornets had to hang on, and it got one more scare. With less than a minute left, and F-M trying to run out the clock, it turned the ball over and Connor Entenmann found himself alone at the net - but he could not hold on to the ball, and it rolled through the crease.
Waffle and Brendan Englert each finished with two goals, while Todd Webster got the other tally. Englert, Mike O'Neil, Matt Klepper and Mike Kutzer earned assists.