By Danny Lopriore
Behind on the scoreboard early on a chilly, gray and damp Thursday afternoon, the Pleasantville boys’ lacrosse team rallied and controlled the second half to forge a 12-7 victory over visiting Mamaroneck on opening day.
Jack Howe and Declan McDermott each scored three goals and Brian Reda added two scores as the three-time defending Section 1, Class C champion Panthers turned a 3-1 deficit into a win by outscoring the Tigers 8-3 in the second half.
The Panthers’ defense found itself after giving up three first-quarter goals and limited the Tigers to just four scores over the final three quarters. Goaltender Jack Fitzgerald had 17 saves, fielding several skimming shots along the turf to slow the Tigers’ offense.
“In practice, it’s always high to low with these guys, so I was ready for it,” Fitzgerald said. “I started a little slow, but I tried to shut it down so we could recover and get back into the game. The offense took over from there.”
Howe, who recovered from a shoulder injury to help lead the Panther football team to its first state title in November, said this year’s team may be led by upperclassmen but has depth at all positions and a strong group of younger players.
“It takes a little time to get the younger guys going in the system that we’ve been playing for the last few years,” said Howe, who scored back-to-back goals to extend the lead to 8-5 midway through the third quarter. “We’ve been fortunate enough to have a core group of guys who have had success together. We are focused on getter better with each game.”
McDermott, another member of the state champion football team, scored a goal in the first, second and third quarters. His second goal knotted the game at 4-4 just before the first half ended.
“We do have a strong group of seniors and we know how to win, especially going into the fourth quarter,” McDermott said. “We can go with our entire bench and have confidence that we can compete.”
Pleasantville will play in Class D this season after dominating Class C for the last three years. The Panthers’ slogan for the season, “Break the Hold”, is dedicated to a football teammate, Brian T. Halloran, who passed away earlier this year, and also to a renewed focus on winning in the postseason.
“We’re playing in Class D this year, but we are still motivated in the same way,” McDermott said. “We’ll be playing against rivals like Bronxville, Westlake and Briarcliff in the class. ‘Break the Hold’ has a double meaning for us. It means that Brian is always in our hearts and always on the field with us. The other meaning is, we were stuck in the state semifinals the last three years. We need to break the hold and get over the hump.”
Reda, recovering from a knee injury he suffered last summer, said he is still getting back into the flow. He scored his first goal to tie the score early in the second quarter, then added another to make the score 11-6 late in the game.
“My knee is full and back to normal, but getting back to full playing shape is more a mental thing,” Reda said. “The knee will be fine, but I haven’t been in a competitive environment for a long time. Our senior class has a hunger to win all four years we’ve been together. We reached the top and won in football and now nothing short of that is acceptable. Mamaroneck made us work like dogs. It was a good test and we had to fight. That’s always good.”
According to Reda, a lot of the Panthers’ success against the Tigers can be credited to Fitzgerald, their last line of defense.
“Jack came up huge with a lot of saves, especially after their early run,” he said. “He started the transition game. Get the save, get the ball, outlet to the midfielders and we’re off to the races. He got us going.”
Panthers coach Chris Kear said his players have not lost their passion for winning after three Section 1 titles and going deep into the state tournament twice before being eliminated.
“The good thing about this squad is that we have a big senior class that is self-motivated,” Kear said. “We let them know that every year is a new year and that no one cares if we won last year. You have to come out with your ‘A’ game every game. You can’t take a play off, you can’t take a day off and no regrets.”
J.B. Conner scored five times for the Tigers and teammate Ajed Zimet added two goals.