There was a fairly good reason why the Skaneateles boys lacrosse team mobbed sophomore goalie Ryan Higman after the final horn sounded in Friday night's 10-8 victory over visiting Cazenovia.
For in this highly-anticipated battle of Laker teams favored to duel for Section III Class C honors this spring, it was Higman's sharp work in the net, combined with a sturdy back line, that allowed Skaneateles to finish in front.
Going into 2011, the biggest question facing Skaneateles in its quest to repeat as sectional champions was how the defense would fare. With the likes of Kevin Rice, Paul O'Donnell, Mike Richards and Zach Brownlee working on the attack, there wouldn't be a problem scoring goals.
That was evident in Wednesday night's season opener, a 23-10 win over Christian Brothers Academy at Alibrandi Stadium where Rice and O'Donnell both scored six times and the Lakers used 10 goals in the second quarter to take charge.
For the home opener, the challenge was much greater. Cazenovia had roared out to a 4-0 start and had scored 82 total goals in routs over CBA, Manlius-Pebble Hill, LaFayette and Jordan-Elbridge. Containing them appeared a tall order.
And early in the first half, the two Laker sides did take part in a fast-paced exchange. It was 3-3 when, early in the second quarter, Rice, Richards and O'Donnell hit on consecutive goals to push Skaneateles ahead 6-3, only to see Cazenovia pull within one, 6-5, when Brad Nardella and Mason Powell converted.
It stayed that way deep into the third period. Skaneateles, in fact, would go more than 16 minutes without a goal and fall behind, 7-6, before O'Donnell hit on his fourth goal to pull his team even again.
Yet even as Richards's third goal put his team ahead 8-7, Skaneateles found itself spending long periods of time in its own end, protecting against the potent Cazenovia attack. Somehow, defenders Trevor Diamond, Brady Hueber and Mike Card kept making key stops, at times even blocking shots with their bodies.