May 31, 2012
Trojans take title away from Lakers
CICERO – Between a humbling 14-6 loss back in early April and subsequent 11-9 homefield setback just two weeks ago, Homer Central boys discovered there was something different in playing Cazenovia this season.
That difference was the Trojans were pretty certain they could compete with the defending New York State Class C lacrosse champions.
That conviction may have been shaken a bit when the No. 1 team in the state grabbed a 3-0 first-quarter lead in Wednesday afternoon’s Section 3 Class C championship contest at Cicero-North Syracuse High School, causing head coach Tom Cottrell called a time-out to settle his troops.
Cazenovia responded to the Trojan break by quickly attacking the goal again, but junior goalkeeper Jonathan Cottrell made the biggest of his five first-quarter saves. Homer quickly countered, Conner Johnston connected on his first of his three goals and the tide suddenly turned. The Trojans reeled off seven unanswered goals and continued on to a 10-6 triumph for the program’s first section title since 1995.
The second-seeded and eighth state-ranked Trojans improve to 17-3 and will face Section 10 representative Salmon River in the state quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m. back at this same Michael Bragman Stadium Complex turf site. The state’s fifth-ranked Shamrocks are an unbeaten 19-0 after a 15-6 win over Section 4 champion Johnson City (15-5) Wednesday in Potsdam.
“Honestly, we knew we could play with them with the way we started that first game against Caz,” Trojan head coach Tom Cottrell said. “We knew what we did wrong when they came back and rolled us in that game. The second game, we thought we out-played them for three quarters, but we also understood what kept us from getting a victory in that game. Today the kids were not going to let something deny us from winning.
“We thought we were the better team and, if given another chance, we could prove that.”
Ryan Cook gave Cazenovia (17-2) the 1-0 lead just 1:30 in the contest. Matt Donovan made it 2-0 with 4:53 left in the quarter and Connor Cannizzaro bumped the score to 3-0 with Cook assisting on the man-up tally 35 seconds later.
It would be nearly 19 minutes before the Lakers would score another goal as goalie Cottrell (12 saves) and his defense — senior defenders Anthony Contento, Drew Christopher and Brandon Wood along with junior long-stick midfielder Alec Sovocool — were tthe mainstays who began forcing Cazenovia into uncharacteristic mistakes.
“A lot of times, people do get caught up in the numbers offensively and rightfully so,” Coach Cottrell said. “Our defense has gotten better every game this year. Today was their opportunity to step up and bring us home a banner. They did that.”
“IT WAS GOOD TO get my first save because I was able to see the ball very well,” Jonathan Cottrell said. “They got their three goals in transition, but once we got to six-on-six, we knew we would do a good job. We all settled down and did a good job defending them from that point.
“They did get a good start, but Connor (Johnston) starting controlling the face-off X,” he continued. “We got the goal to pull even and things started to roll from there. It’s nice to have some good momentum and we hope to keep it rolling now.”
“We did have a plan that we just had to execute,” Contento said. “We got down early, but knew we could make the plan work. We know Caz runs a lot of its offense through Cannizzaro and Cook. We knew we had to shut them down and we started doing that and the outcome of the game certainly changed. They weren’t able to do much offensively.”
Johnston was the key to getting the Trojans on the run offensively.
Despite, losing six-of-seven face-offs in the first quarter, the Trojans tied the game at 3-3 in the final four minutes of the first quarter. Johnston netted an unassisted goal with 3:39 left to start the Trojan run. With 2:19 to go, Brandon Maxson fired home a shot with Sean Ferrito assisting. Casey Cleary knotted the score with a shot into the lower left corner with 1:26 to play in the quarter.
“The only thing that hurt us in the first quarter was we didn’t have the ball,” Coach Cottrell said. “Both teams have good offenses and whoever has the ball has the best opportunity to score. We played way too much defense in those first six minutes. We had to turn that around and, to the boys’ credit, they did that.”
The Trojans began the second quarter with possession after a late penalty on Cazenovia. Johnston put Homer in front for good with 11:26 left in the half. Beau Riley assisted on the man-up goal.
Over the next three quarters. Johnston won 10 of 11 face-offs and Aaron Zimmerman won his only chance as the Trojans dominated the X and controlled the pace of the game.
“I wasn’t winning the face-offs in the beginning and I knew I had to step up,” Johnston said. “I knew this could be the last lacrosse game of my high school career if I didn’t step up. I was able to do the job and I was glad to be a part of this team effort.
“Our offense is so good because we have so many guys who can score,” he added. “We don’t just score. We can move the ball and we can pass the ball as well. We knew from the beginning of the season that we could win a sectional title and we did it today as a team.”
FERRITO MADE IT 5-3 with an unassisted goal with 7:26 left in the first half. Maxson scored off a Johnston assist and Riley tallied from Zimmerman’s assist for a 7-3 Trojan halftime advantage.
Any second-half comeback bids by Cazenovia were answered by Homer. Cannizzaro stopped the Trojan run with 9:38 left in the third quarter, but his unassisted goal was the only one for the Lakers in the third quarter.
Riley netted his 100th career point with 3:46 left in the quarter on an unassisted goal. Johnston completed his hat trick two minutes later with Maxson assisting for a 9-4 Homer lead after three quarters.
Brad Nardella scored a man-up goal for the Lakers to open the fourth quarter scoring, but Zimmerman responded 54 seconds later with Ferrito assisting for the 10-5 cushion.
Down two men, Cook gave Cazenovia a short-handed goal with 1:15 remaining, but that would be it as Homer ran out the remaining time and began a long-awaited celebration.
“Winning the sectional title does one thing for me,” Coach Cottrell said of his first title. “It gives me the opportunity to put a big thank you out there to all my youth and volunteer coaches, to everyone involved in Homer Youth Lacrosse. This didn’t just happen today, this happened because of a great community, fantastic kids, a lot of wonderful people who volunteer their time to teach this wonderful game of lacrosse.“Today was just a culmination of that. I am proud to be here to represent Homer and lead these guys onto the field, but there is a long list of people who need to be thank. I hope they enjoy this as much as I do,” he added.
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