Though the Section III Class C championship was secure, the Cazenovia boys lacrosse team’s biggest hurdles to a second state title in three years still lay in front of them.
A switch in the rotation in the Class C state tournament bracket made the Lakers go through two regional rounds in order to get to this week’s state final four, all of which takes place at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, near Rochester.
Just as in 2011, the Lakers would meet Salmon River in the regional phase. That game, played last Wednesday at Potsdam High School, turned into a nervous one for Cazenovia, who had to wait until the fourth quarter to get clear of the Shamrocks and prevail 12-8.
As the top team in Section X (it has beaten every opponent in that section six years straight), Salmon River, no. 3 in the state rankings, remembered how close it came to beating the Lakers two seasons ago, and would nearly atone for that defeat.
Goalie Kobi Johnson carried the Shamrocks in the first half, turning back all kinds of Laker shots, and that emboldened Salmon River’s defense to get more aggressive, too, containing Cazenovia’s star offensive duo of Connor Cannizzaro and Ryan Cook.
As that went on, the Shamrocks, down 2-1 after one period, took charge in the second quarter, outscoring Cazenovia 4-1 to grab a 5-3 edge at the break, led by Russ Oakes, who finished with three goals, and Kyle Lewis, who contributed three assists.
Sensing that his team’s season might end, Cannizzaro took over in the third quarter, figuring out Johnson and scoring three times to bring Cazenovia closer.
But as the fourth quarter began, the Lakers still trailed, 7-6, and even after Henry Mann tied it, Salmon River’s Russ Oakes answered with his third goal with 9:48 left to put the Shamrocks back in front.