May 31, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Close to 12 months ago, the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team’s reign as state Class C champions commenced on the turf at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
And it was there that the Lakers’ reign would end, courtesy of the Homer Trojans.
Up by three goals in the early stages of Wednesday’s Section III Class C final, the Lakers saw that lead melt away as Homer, with poise and efficiency, outplayed Cazenovia and, with a 10-5 victory, claimed its first sectional title since 1995.
“They (Homer) outplayed us in every aspect of the game,” said Lakers head coach Jim Longo. “Their offense had more energy than our defense did.”
In reality, the result was a full season in the making. Cazenovia, the state’s top-ranked team for most of the spring, had overcome a poor start to rout Homer 14-6 in their first regular-season meeting on April 3, and then had to make a late-game comeback to get past the Trojans 11-9 in the May 16 rematch.
Each time, the Trojans got closer, learning bits and pieces of the Lakers’ approach that would pay rich dividends in the third and most important encounter.
“Our kids knew that they could beat Cazenovia if they played the full 48 minutes,” said Homer head coach Tom Cottrell.
Yet the title game started quite well for the Lakers. Ryan Cook, Matt Donovan and Connor Cannizzaro all netted goals that put Cazenovia ahead 3-0 late in the first quarter.
Right after Cannizzaro’s goal, the Lakers had a point-blank look that Homer goalie Jon Cottrell stopped. Instead of a four-goal lead, Cazenovia would get shut out for nearly 19 minutes, a drought that stretched into the third quarter.
That was more than enough time for Homer to take charge. It caught up, 3-3, by the end of the first quarter, and a combination of Conner Johnston’s domination in the face-off circle and a baffling zone defense pushed the Trojans to a 7-3 lead early in the second half.
Longo said his team had struggled all year against zones, a fact that few opponents exploited until Homer settled into that look, forcing Cannizzaro, Cook and the rest of the Lakers’ attackers outside to take low-percentage shots, many of which were scooped up by Cottrell, who finished with 12 saves.
Once behind, the Lakers found the path to a comeback blocked by Johnston’s ability to win the face-offs that gave Homer long possessions that drained the clock.
Simply put, the Trojans were not going to hand this game away, as LaFayette did to Cazenovia in the sectional semifinals after taking a 10-5 lead in the fourth quarter. They were at that same number, 10-5, at that same point in the game here, too, but other than a late goal from Cook, the Lakers were not rallying this time.
Johnston, aside from his great work in the face-off circle, also managed three goals and one assist, while Beau Riley and Brandon Maxson each had two goals and one assist. In defeat, Cazenovia goalie Trevor Cross recorded 12 saves.
To get back to the top in 2013, Cazenovia will need to replace most of its back line, including Doyle Judge, Clayton Goris and Barclay Talbot, not to mention stars like Donovan, Oliver Gates and Alan Baldwin.
But the return of Cannizzaro, Cook, Cross, Brad Nardella, Henry Mann and Mike Nourse, among others, should give the Lakers lots of reasons to think another run at glory is within reach.