As it stood going into last Tuesday night’s game at Hyatt Stadium, the Westhill and Skaneateles boys lacrosse teams were working toward the top two seeds in the Section III Class D playoffs, possibly headed for a championship showdown a month from now.
If so, they have quite a first act to follow.
The undefeated, state Class D no. 1-ranked Warriors earned its 10th straight win by edging the state no. 6-ranked Lakers 11-10, not taking the lead until the fourth quarter and then hanging on in the final seconds.
With a 9-1 mark going into the game and fresh off an impressive April 22 home win over Fayetteville-Manlius, Skaneateles was bent on asserting itself as the local Class D favorites, and nearly got away from Westhill in the game’s early stages.
Pat Hackler scored twice in the game’s first three minutes. Goals by Reggie Buell and Patrick Major extended the Lakers’ lead to 4-0 and made the Warriors use a time-out late in the first quarter.
That seemed to settle Westhill down, as it got on the board with goals from Jack Miller and Andrew Hodgens before Hackler and Major countered in the second quarter, putting Skaneateles up 6-2.
Even when the Warriors cut the deficit to one late in the half, Hackler’s fourth goal with 1.3 seconds left restored the Lakers’ lead to 7-5, and the hosts maintained that margin through a tense third quarter.
But everything turned at the start of the final period. With his team down 9-7, Westhill’s Casey Rogers took the face-off, ran straight up the middle and fired a shot past Scott Oschner, It took all of six seconds.
Fired up by this sudden strike, the Warriors tied it less than a minute later on Hodgens’ third goal, and when Owen Matukas found the net with 9:43 left, Westhill had its first lead of the night.
Matukas struck again two minutes later, making it 11-9, but even with Rogers claiming five straight face-offs and the Warriors trying to run out the clock, the Lakers forced turnovers and, with 2:06 left, Hackler, with his fifth goal, cut the margin to one.
A penalty on that scoring play gave Skaneateles a man-up chance to tie it, but Westhill goalie Tim O’Connor intercepted a pass, and using both of its time-outs, the Warriors ran off most of the remaining clock and forced one more turnover when the Lakers tried to run down the field in the waning seconds.
Without much time to recover, Skaneateles would host its namesakes from Cazenovia Thursday night, and though heavy graduation losses took a toll on the visiting Lakers, it still proved a tough game that Skaneateles had to pull out by a 13-11 margin.
Twice in the first half, Skaneateles squandered two-goal leads, but Danforth and Hackler struck just before the break to give the hosts a 6-4 lead. They traded goals again in the third quarter before Hackler found the net again and then assisted on back-to-back tallies from Buell to make it 11-6 with one period left.
Danforth and Hackler, who both finished with four goals, converted in the fourth quarter, which gave Skaneateles a cushion against a late Cazenovia charge. Buell finished with three goals and three assists as Major and Jeremy Castle got the other goals.
Oschner had 10 saves as Will Shepard, with four goals and two assists, and Alex Nowak, with three goals, paced the Cazenovia effort and its netminder, R.J. Smith, finished with 13 saves.
Earlier that same day, Westhill, perhaps worn out by the battle at Skaneateles, took its first loss of the season, 9-6, to CBA, who beat the Lakers earlier this season at Alibrandi Stadium – and the Brothers meet Skaneateles again, this time on the Lakers’ turf, Thursday night after a game with LaFayette on Tuesday.