By Bill Landon
Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.
It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.
Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.
Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.
Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.
Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.
“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”
Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.
Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.
Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.
“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.
“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”
Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.
“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”