May 25, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
For 46 minutes of Friday night’s Section III Class A semifinal, the Fayetteville-Manlius boys lacrosse team did all the good things – attack hard, play stout defense, stay physical and hunt down ground balls – that led to a perfect 16-0 regular-season mark and state no. 3 ranking.
Then in two terrifying minutes, the Hornets nearly threw the whole season away.
Liverpool, the defending sectional champions, erased most of a five-goal deficit in a frantic late charge before the Hornets held on to beat the Warriors 10-9 at Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium.
The win helped F-M advance to Tuesday night’s Class A final at the Carrier Dome, where it will battle long-time rival West Genesee, who needed its own last-second goal from Brady Hoose to edge past Baldwinsville 9-8 in the other semifinal.
F-M entered the post-season in a rare position – that of a favorite in the sectional tournament, something the Hornets have not won in 20 years. But after a bye straight into the semifinals, the Hornets had to face Liverpool, the same side that knocked F-M out of this same round in 2011 and 2012.
Even a 13-4 regular-season victory over the Warriors on April 23, where Kevin Lux scored 10 goals, could not ease the concerns F-M had about Liverpool, for it knew that the Warriors’ zone defense would be difficult to solve again.
But for most of this playoff game, the Hornets were in total command. Lux scored less than two minutes into the game, and Jack Wilson made it 2-0 at the 3:10 mark.
After Jamie Kuppel’s goal put Liverpool on the board, Ryan DaRin took over, the F-M midfielder hitting on three consecutive goals, sparking the Hornets as it stretched its lead to 6-1 by halftime.
For more than 25 minutes of game time, Josh Pulver, Jake Pulver, Ben Jeffery and the rest of F-M’s defense kept the Warriors off the board. Then Jeffery, who had not scored a goal all season, made a rare charge into the offensive end and beat Dominick Madonna to make it 7-1 early in the third quarter.
From that high point, the Hornets cooled off, and Liverpool, for the bulk of the second half, probed for opportunities, but rarely could find the net and make the Hornets sweat.
So when Clay Arnold scored with 2:55 left to stretch F-M’s margin back to 10-5, it was only natural for F-M fans to start thinking about West Genesee and its trip to the Dome. The Hornets’ players may have thought that way, too, and if so, that was a big mistake.
Refusing to let go of the Class A sectional crown it earned a year ago, Liverpool began its resurrection when Jamie Kuppel scored with 1:44 left. Then the Warriors won the ensuing face-off, and Peter Flood converted 24 seconds later, and suddenly it was 10-7.
Again, Liverpool gained the face-off. Again, it converted, and not only did Justin Renk’s goal make it 10-8 with 39.7 seconds to play, a Hornet penalty after the goal gave the Warriors a man-up situation and possession of the ball without a draw.
Peter Sterio took full advantage and, with 23.8 seconds left, fired it past Brian Bedell, cutting F-M’s once-healthy lead to one. Incredibly, the Warriors claimed the ensuing face-off and, in the waning seconds, had a chance to force overtime.
One more time, Liverpool worked the ball around, but Pulver forced a turnover, and the ball bounded toward midfield as the horn sounded and F-M could breathe again.
And once it captured that breath, the Hornets could turn its attention toward ending its two-decade sectional championship drought against the one opponent most responsible for prolonging that drought.
F-M met West Genesee twice in the regular season, winning by margins of 6-4 and 9-7. None of that will matter, though, if the Hornets don’t prevail in the third encounter on the grand stage of the Carrier Dome.