By Ray Gallagher Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays & Rob DiAntonio @RJD_Photos
Rye’s Jack O’Byrne scored a fate-changing goal in the Garnets’ 11-7 Section 1 Class B title win over visiting Yorktown last Saturday night, which was a sign of the times. O’Byrne’s nifty behind-the-back, give-and-go tally to beat Husker keeper Adam Norris for a 7-3 second-quarter lead was a microcosm of the Section 1 boys’ lax circuit, but the fact that Class C champion Briarcliff may have been the best team in Section 1 this season is the macrocosm: The rest of Section 1 has officially caught up to 40-time sectional champion Yorktown.
Having gone three years without winning the section, Coach Sean Carney’s seven-time NYS champion Huskers are still the cream of the crop, but the cream hasn’t risen since 2017 while other programs, including Coach Al Meola’s two-time reigning champion Bears, have not only narrowed the margin, but, for the time being, have closed the one-time gaping gap. Throw in the fact that Scarsdale emerged from nowhere to knock off heavily favored Mamaroneck and win its first title ever in Saturday’s Class A title tilt, and you get the sense that ‘the times they are a changin’, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you consider growing the game is tantamount to its success nationwide.
Yorktown will always be the standard by which other Section 1 teams are measured; that may never change, but the game has grown expeditiously, and it’ll be on the Huskers to keep pace and surpass the field again. There was a time when lacrosse was a fringe sport (1980’s-90’s) and only Yorktown players and a handful of others — at places like Lakeland/Panas and Mahopac — could make the type of play Garnet pole O’Byrne made last Saturday, but the turn of the century unleashed a wave of potential, which players across the country have ridden to unbridled success #GrowTheGame.
BRIARCLIFF fell behind 1-0 against BYRAM HILLS in the Section 1 Class C championship game but the Bobcats’ lead didn’t last very long. The second-seeded Bears took a few minutes to settle in and then kicked it into high gear and routed the No. 5 Bobcats, 17-4, to claim their second straight section title. The previous one came in 2019 in Class D.
Hayden Fruhling finished on a feed from Benny Rakower to score the Bobcats’ initial goal as they controlled possession early. But that lit a fire under Briarcliff, who took control of the game late in the first quarter. Lucas Proctor broke the ice with just under four minutes left and Elliot Jones netted the next two. Nico Santucci then scored to give the Bears a 4-1 edge after one quarter.
“We were mad because we were watching all this film and their first goal was exactly what we said they were gonna do,” Briarcliff Coach Al Meola said. “And they did it. I think it woke us up early, which was great. It got us right back into the game. From then on, we were going north the whole time.”
The Bears’ next goal didn’t come until midway through the second quarter. Jack Ricciardi used a pick and drove to his left, unleashing a lefty crank into the top right shelf to make it 5-1. Just over a minute later, Kyle Proctor found Jones, who dove and finished to extend the lead. Gavin Javorsky sliced through the Bears’ defense and scored to get a goal back for the Bobcats but Ricciardi finished off a flawless break started by an Aidan Murnane steal with 1:06 left to send the Bears into halftime with a 7-2 lead.
Despite the five-goal halftime lead, Meola knew not to count out the Bobcats.
“We said they’re a scrappy bunch and they’re gonna try to scratch and claw their way back out,” Meola said. “There are great coaches over there and they’re gritty boys. So we knew we were still in a dogfight and we weren’t wavering at all.”
The Bears poured it on in the third quarter, outscoring Byram 6-2 to squash any hopes of a comeback and extend the lead to 13-4. The ball didn’t stay in one stick for long as it ping-ponged to the open teammate.
“We were moving the ball and the sharing was unbelievable,” Meola said. “No selfishness on this team. They all just literally bought into a system and played it to perfection, or close to perfection.”
Jones, a junior, led Briarcliff with a game-high five goals. Ricciardi and Lucas Proctor each tallied two goals and four assists. Kyle Proctor added a goal and handed out four assists. Brandon Rispoli (2G), Anthony Capasso (1G, 1A), Santucci (1G, 1A), Murnane (1G) and Brett Lachtman (1G) all chipped in. Evan Van Camp stopped 10 shots.
The Bobcats were paced by Javorsky’s two goals. Sean Siegel also had a goal. Jack Quinn corralled five shots in net while Ben Weinhoff won 16 of 23 faceoffs.
Despite missing the 2020 season due to the pandemic, Briarcliff’s chemistry was immediate for a Bears team that picked up signature wins over Yorktown and Mamaroneck during the regular season.
Meola said the team’s “attention to detail” aided them in their success.
“It’s never a struggle to get these guys to compete and get to practice,” he said. “These guys want to be here. They’re here early, they’re joking around or having fun. They’re just really close. I think that’s huge. Sometimes it’s not all about X’s and O’s. It’s about guys wanting to play for each other. So it was pretty awesome.”
Briarcliff (15-1) would have very much been a strong contender for a Class C state championship in a normal season. But the states were cancelled this year so the Bears will have to wait for 2022 to get their chance at the biggest prize.
“It’s disappointing because this team has a lot of talent,” Meola said of the Bears, who reached the state final in 2019. “What a squad. Just the closeness, the tightness, the unity. It’s been unbelievable. This senior group is unreal and it’s gonna be tough to see them go. You know, we had guys breaking down in our huddle yesterday after practice. This is a really tight group. I’m getting choked up telling you about it. I’ve been with these guys since they were all in fourth and fifth grade.”
Briarcliff cruised past No. 6 Pearl River, 15-3, in the semifinals. Ricciardi sparked the Bears with three goals and five assists. Matt Waterhouse (3G, 1A), Jones (2G, 2A), Lucas Proctor (3A) and Kyle Proctor (3A) helped stuff the stat sheet for the Bears.
The Bears dismantled Tappan Zee 17-3 in the quarterfinals. Lucas Proctor (4G, 1A), Kyle Proctor (2G, 5A), Ricciardi (2G, 4A) and Rispoli (2G, 2A) did the damage.
Byram (12-5) rallied from a 5-0 deficit to defeat No. 8 Pelham, 12-8, in the semis. Fruhling (1A) and Javorsky each netted a hat trick. Siegel and Rakower notched two goals and an assist apiece.
Fruhling had five goals and an assist in a 14-4 blowout win over Our Lady of Lourdes in the quarterfinals. Javorsky also had six points with three goals and three assists. Michael Oronzio (3G, 1A) and Rakower (1G, 3A) also had impressive games while Weinhoff dominated the X yet again, winning 17 of 23 faceoffs.
“This season was unbelievable,” Fruhling said. “We had an amazing group of kids who sacrificed a ton for the program. I think the key to our success was the gritty style we played with, which allowed for us to put a ton of pressure on our opponents. We played fast and aggressive, which granted us a lot of opportunities in transition and when we were able to capitalize it made the difference.”
Fruhling also won a Class B Bowl championship as the quarterback with the football team on top of being a section finalist in lacrosse.
“What I’ll miss most about playing lacrosse at Byram is the relationships and passion around the game,” he said. “There is nothing like repping your hometown high school and playing with the kids you’ve grown up with. I am going to miss the time we spent on and off the field and I wish I could step on the field with this group one more time.”
No. 6 Pearl River ended No.3 PUTNAM VALLEY’s bid for the semis in a 13-10 road win over Coach Tim Weir’s Tigers, who saw their 10-game win streak come to a screeching halt. Brendan Donohue (4G, 3A) had his way with PV, who let a 9-9 tie get away from them in the final stanza. Tigers Ryan Denike and Jack Murphy each had two goals and two assists while Ethan Mournier added a hat trick.
YORKTOWN (13-4) met its match for a third consecutive tournament, the first such account since we began tracking Section 1 lacrosse, but the streak of consecutive sectional final appearances was kept alive. But Yorktown has never been about appearances. The Huskers are built to win every year, and it has gotten tougher with all the good ‘Stick’ being played in Section 1, and Rye is right there among the upper crust every season. The 2021 season saw the Garnets take a pair from the Huskers, including Saturday’s title triumph, which was the biggest win in Rye history.
Senior Will Embury put the Huskers up 3-1, but the Garnets reeled off five in a row for a 6-3 lead when Liam Hurley emerged from a crowd of players with 2:55 left in the first quarter to score. Rye switched out of a man-to-man defense and its zone D took the Huskers off their game.
Yorktown’s Brendan Regan (2G, 1A), Embury (2G), Spencer Norris (G, 2A), Harry Griff (3A), Dylan Beck (G) and Jack Duncan (G) each produced but not enough. Yorktown G Norris (19 saves) faced stiff pressure throughout as the Garnets dominated the X (winning 15 of 22 faceoffs).
No.2 Yorktown advanced to the finals after its 11-8 win over No.3 LAKELAND/PANAS last Wednesday. The Rebels were in command early, up 3-1, before the Huskers ran off six unanswered goals. Beck made it 1-1, but Tyler Nocito and Nick Grapp (hat trick) spotted L/P a 3-1. Embury and Griff went back-to-back to make 3-3 before Conor Huffnagel (3G, 2A) gave the Rebs their last lead at 4-3. Griff, Embury, Giacomo Micciari, Beck and Beck again, then Regan all scored in succession for a 9-4 lead the Huskers would never relinquish, despite L/P middie Vincent Scialdone going 13-9 on faceoffs.
“You can never be too far ahead against Lakeland/Panas,” Carney said. “They always fight and claw to get back in, tons of pride on their end. I thought we executed well. We have had time to practice and teach a bit lately and that has helped the boys to understand their roles and responsibilities. Our job is to win the section and we know that.”
While the Huskers came up short in 2021, the goal will always remain: Win the section and represent at states.
Lakeland/Panas reached the semis after its 13-11 win over a feisty sixth-seeded SOMERS club. Hufnagel had four goals and three assists for the Rebels. Reed Thompson added four goals and Liam Burke finished with three goals and one assist for the Rebels, who were coming off a 10-day COVID-related pause.
Somers was led by middie T.J. Deagan and T.J. Olifiers, who each had a hat trick. Somers got within a point, at 12-11, in the waning moments off a goal from Kieran Gill. Lorenzo Sessa (1G) did a lot of dishing (4A) for the Tuskers, who got better as the season progressed.
No.4 MAHOPAC was no match for Rye in the semis, falling 14-1, but the Indians have a ton of young talent returning for the 2022 season, and should they rebuild the defense quickly Mahopac (11-5) could take a big step next year.
FOX LANE (10-5), the No. 5 seed in Class B, narrowly lost to fourth-seeded Mahopac 12-10 in the quarterfinals. Everett Banks had a hat trick for the Foxes while Matt Magidson, Will Shepherd and Jack Cicchelli tallied two goals each. Jake Wollman had a goal and an assist.
The Foxes trailed 9-5 at halftime but trimmed the deficit to 11-9 midway through the fourth quarter when Wollman found Cicchelli in front for the diving goal.
But Mahopac had answers in the form of Jake Degnan (4G, 1A), Danny Koch (3G, 1A), Mike Harney (2G, 1A), Mike Rettberg (1G, 1A), John Kearney (1G), Gavin Viglucci (1G) and Matthew Puckhaber (2A). Chris Evans (1A) won 15-of-24 at the X and G Brett Crecco had nine saves.
“Jake Degnan’s hat trick was three early goals that helped us jump out to a 6-2 lead,” Mahopac Coach Job Bota said. “Coming out of the break they went on a two-goal run before Mike Harney scored from deep. Fox Lane stood tough and kept chipping away.
The lead would come within two a couple times, but with nine minutes left in the game Danny Kotch scored off a nice double hitch move to make it 11-8. After another big goal by Fox Lane, John Kearney scored on the fast break down the alley to give us the 12th goal we needed for insurance.”
Dylan Mutkoski scored three goals for No. 10 HORACE GREELEY in a 21-3 Class B quarterfinal loss at Yorktown. Embury had six goals and an assist for the Huskers while Back (4G, 3A) had his way, too.
PLEASANTVILLE reached the Class D semifinals but suffered a humbling 22-2 defeat at the hands of top-seeded and eventual champion Bronxville. The No. 3 Panthers won by forfeit over Pawling in the quarters.
Fifth-seeded WHITE PLAINS lost to fourth-seeded Suffern 8-6 in the Class A quarterfinals last Monday. Ryan Ortiz netted all six goals for the Tigers.
Ray has 33 years experience covering and photographing local sports in Westchester and Putnam counties, including everything from Little League/Travel Baseball to varsity high school prep sports and collegiate coverage. He has been a sports editor at Examiner Media since its inception in 2007.