West Genesee boys lacrosse coaches Mike Messere and Bob Deegan are honored by superintendent Dr. Chris Brown after Thursday night's 9-8 victory over Fayetteville-Manlius, the last home game for Messere and Deegan, who are retiring at season's end.
Only after the game was done did Mike Messere admit that the emotions were getting to him.
All the attention that the West Genesee boys lacrosse head coach had drawn during this, his final season on the sidelines, had culminated Thursday night on the field named in his honor.
Here were the Wildcats, against its biggest rival, Fayetteville-Manlius, engaged in a classic back-and-forth struggle that wasn’t decided until the final seconds.
When the clock hit zero, and WG had won 9-8, Messere understood that this, his 840th coaching victory, had a bit more meaning. He said that the presence of so many former players on this night made the occasion overwhelming, regardless of how it turned out.
And for quite a while, it looked like F-M would create a different outcome than what most of the fans wanted.
Since falling to the Wildcats 10-6 on April 24, F-M had only lost once, and entered this game owning a six-game win streak that coincided with the return of face-off specialist Zach VanValkenburgh.
Combine this improvement by the Hornets with all the hoopla surrounding the farewells to Messere and his long-time assistant coach, Bob Deegan, and the festivities of Senior Night, and WG found itself in trouble from the outset.
F-M jumped to a 2-0 lead, and even when Jack Howes got the Wildcats on the board, it found itself hurt by a rash of turnovers, penalties and other mental mistakes, allowing the Hornets to extend its margin to 5-1 midway through the second quarter.
“We just played sloppy,” said Messere. “But we just kept pushing.”
The turnaround started with Max Rosa’s goal 13.9 seconds before halftime. Energized, WG made a third-quarter charge centered around Kevin Sheehan, who twice assisted on goals by Howe before hitting back-to-back goals 38 seconds apart to give the Wildcats its first lead, 6-5.
But the Hornets absorbed all this and, 90 seconds later, tied it on Zack Nestor’s goal. Then it reclaimed the lead 7-6 when Nick Papa hit on his third goal less than a minute into the final period.
Less than three minutes later, Howes, with his fourth goal, tied it again, with Kevin Sheehan feeding his brother, Ryan, for the go-ahead goal, only to have Jack Shanley pull the Hornets even at 8-8 with 4:46 left.
Catalysts throughout the game, the Sheehan brothers made one more big play. Seconds after Ryan ringed one off the post, Kevin picked up the rebound and, with 3:08 to play, put in the go-ahead goal.
Fittingly, it came down to the Wildcats’ defense, long a staple of Messere teams, making one more stop. Mike McGuigan, Kevin Snow, Tom Baker and the rest of the back line did so, including a man-up situation in the final minute where goalie Luke Satudt picked off Papa’s pass attempt and was able to clear it out, the Wildcats able to kill the remaining clock.
Most of the fans stayed for a brief post-game ceremony, where school superintendent Dr. Chris Brown, athletic director Mike Byrnes and the Board of Education presented plaques to Messere and Deegan, congratulating them for their long service to the West Genesee community.
Asked to speak, Messere did not have many words, but he thanked the community for all their support through the years and said he was very lucky to have served so long at his alma mater.
Two nights earlier, WG, no. 6 in the state Class A rankings, had rolled past Liverpool 13-5, controlling matters from start to finish as, once again, it showed that it could stay in the moment and not worry about bigger things ahead.
Steadily building its margin through the first three periods, the Wildcats went out in front 11-3 as Howes and John Bergan both scored four times, Howes adding an assist.
Anthony Datellas had two goals and one assist, with Ryan Sheehan getting one goal and one assist. Noah Sabatino and David McCarthy also converted, with Kevin Sheehan adding an assist.
The win over F-M ended the Wildcats’ regular season at 14-2. It would now practice and wait for the start of the post-season as Messere looked to add more laurels to the 30 sectional and 15 state titles he has already accumulated.