FRANKLIN, Mass. – Franklin entered the postseason with just two losses (both in double overtime) and with its highest-ever seed (No. 2). The Panthers rolled through a perfect league campaign, going 10-0 in the Hockomock, while compiling both the league’s best attack and its stingiest defense.
So, all the pressure was definitely on the Panthers when they opened up the state tournament at Pisini Stadium on Tuesday night against division rival Mansfield. The Hornets were playing with house money, having won the final three games of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs and having lost to Franklin by 20 goals a month ago.
When Jake DiSangro scored with just under six minutes left to go in the opening quarter, cutting the Franklin lead to 2-1, the Hornets bench exploded and there was a fleeting moment where an upset seemed possible.
But, the Panthers responded with two goals in 29 seconds and rattled off seven straight goals to close out the quarter with a 9-1 lead. Franklin never looked back, going up by 14 at halftime, and, despite Mansfield scoring the game’s final five goals, comfortably advancing to the second round with a 19-8 victory.
The combination of junior attackers Jake Davis and Ben Greco and sophomore Matt Lazzaro proved especially potent again for the Panthers on Tuesday. Greco and Lazzaro are cousins and Verrochi said they refer to Davis as “the third cousin.” That familiarity was on display as they combined for 16 of the team’s 19 goals and added 11 assists as well.
“They’ve been playing together since they were young kids,” Verrochi said of his attacking trio. “They just really respect one another and they just do a real nice job moving the ball. It’s just fun to watch when they’re on.”
Davis got things going just about a minute into the game with a rip from the left side under the bar. Ninety seconds later, Greco found Lazzaro cutting through the middle and he went behind-the-back to double the early lead. DiSangro answered four minutes later with Mansfield’s first, managing to beat Franklin goalie Will Davis with a shot while being knocked to the ground.
That goal seemed to spring Franklin to life.
Jacob Alexander, the newly-selected league MVP, won the ensuing face-off and quickly got the ball to Greco, who fed Lazzaro for a goal. Mansfield’s momentum lasted all of eight seconds. Twenty-one seconds after that Greco to Lazzaro made it 4-1.
Lazzaro (seven goals and three assists) hit a cutting Davis (seven goals and two assists) not once, but twice to add to the advantage. Greco (two goals and six assists) took one himself, squeezing past the Mansfield defense and beating goalie Joe Plath (11 saves) from a tight angle. Owen Kielty took a hit but still got a lot on a shot from distance to make it 8-1 and then Nitin Chaudhury wound up in traffic for a ninth just before the end of the quarter.
“We tried to slow them down,” said Mansfield coach Tim Frias. “We implemented a zone a little bit to slow down the high-powered offense but they’re good. They’re No. 2 for a reason.”
Despite Mansfield’s switch to a zone defense, Franklin figured out ways to manufacture space and the ball movement continued to open up scoring chances.
“The kids solved the zone pretty well,” said Verrochi. “They were ball watching and we were fortunate to get some good, open looks. Ben Greco, he’s been doing it all year, our fast breaks, our unsettled situations, the kids just move the ball. This is probably the best ball movement from any team we’ve had.”
The Hornets started the second man-down, but managed to end the Panthers scoring run. Connor Quirk beat two Panthers on the far side trying to clear after a timeout and then he raced all the way on goal before tucking it away.
Chaudhury found Davis with his hands free for a rocket into the corner to get the hosts going again. Davis added a side-arm effort off a turnover and then assisted on Lazzaro’s fourth. With just under five minutes left in the half, Patrick Morrison scooped a ground ball in his defensive third and raced forward on the break to find Greco alone in front for his second. Eleven seconds later, Greco to Lazzaro worked again to make it 14-2.
Lazzaro scored his sixth and Tim Kolb got his first to put the Panthers up by 14 heading into the break. Nico Holmes won the face-off to start the third and powered towards goal, flicking a pass to Brady Kessler for the goal to make it 16-3. Davis added two more and Lazzaro one to push the lead to 19-3, Franklin’s largest of the game.
The Hornets didn’t stop at that point and they pushed to win the final 16 minutes of the game. Aidan Sacco got it started with a goal with 3:57 left in the third and, after a Holmes face-off win, Mansfield got a goal from Brian Rockwell.
Mansfield (8-9) would shut out Franklin in the fourth. Holmes got a goal straight from the face-off to start the quarter, Sacco assisted on a goal by Thomas Norton, and Holmes (two goals and two assists) completed his four-point night with a rocket from long-range.
“That’s all you can ask out of a team is play with pride,” said Frias. “In the second half it was the little things that you hope you take away and can build on that. Hopefully we will.”
Franklin (17-2) advances to take on No. 7 seed Natick on Thursday night.
But it was even tougher than they anticipated.
The Panthers had cruised through its league schedule to this point, racking up seven wins and outscoring Hockomock foes 140-14. On the other side, King Philip raced out to a 10-0 record overall before suffering back-to-back losses to Canton and Grafton — both by one goal — before the clash against the Panthers.
King Philip came out strong, taking the first lead of the game and going in front again in the second quarter. The Warriors limited Franklin to just four goals in the first half, trailing by two at the break.
But Franklin found its footing in the second half, using timely goals in both the third and fourth quarters, and dominated possession en route to an 11-5 victory. The win clinches at least a share of a seventh straight Kelley-Rex division title for the Panthers.
“[King Philip] played well, I didn’t anticipate that they were going to be as good as they are and they surprised me, and they surprised us,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “We didn’t anticipate them to give us the game they did. They were very aggressive, they did a nice job. They are a quality team for sure.”
A slashing call — just one of two penalties called in the game — on the Panthers gave King Philip an early man-up opportunity and the Warriors cashed in. Junior Kevin Riggs found himself in some space and ripped a shot into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
But the lead lasted just a minute as the Panthers responded on its next possession. Senior Nitin Chaudhury gained some space and fired a right-handed shot into the back of the net to make it 1-1. KP’s defensive group of Wes Bishop, Luke D’Amico, and Garrett Maxwell did a nice job of preventing the Panthers from getting any other chances in the first half, limiting Franklin to three shots in the first.
Sophomore Sam Mattson took advantage of McKinney’s stops, using a rocket of a shot to put the Warriors up 2-1 with 7:35 left in the second quarter.
Franklin senior Jacob Alexander gave the Panthers a boost, winning the ensuing faceoff and racing down and bouncing in a shot that made it 2-2. Alexander won the next draw as well, leading to a goal from sophomore Owen Kielty on a nice feed from Ben Greco.
King Philip nearly tied it when Chris Longobardi won the face off, sprinted into the offensive zone and got off an open shot but Franklin goalie Will Davis (five saves) got just enough on it to keep the lead.
Palmieri converted a low shot while being pressured to put the Panthers up 4-2 heading into the half.
A faceoff win from Alexander led to a goal from Will Harvey (from Greco) to extend Franklin’s lead a minute into the second half. Mattson answered with a blast to make it a two-goal game but Franklin scored the final two goals of the third quarter.
First, senior Ben Kolb battled his way through traffic and finished in close to make it 6-3. A minute after Andrew Sajdak had his shot clank off the crossbar, Franklin tacked on another when Jake Davis snuck a tough angle shot under the bar to put the Panthers ahead 7-3 heading into the fourth.
“We started to move the ball a little bit more,” Verrochi said of second half adjustments. “We looked at certain matchups and found ones we felt we could go to goal on. I think we started doing that better and our off ball movement was better in the second half.
“If you’re beating your man, and you draw a slide, whoever’s man slid you gotta follow the slide with the stick lock and loaded, and I think we did a good job with that.”
King Philip was limited to just the one shot from Mattson in the quarter. McKinney made seven saves in the frame but the Panthers made it difficult for the Warriors to clear the zone.
“Andrew McKinney in goal was phenomenal, he really saw the ball well,” said KP head coach Hal Bean. “Those guys were shooting fast and he was on the ball, he was tracking well.
“[Franklin] slides very quickly, probably the fastest we’ve seen. So once our guy broke free from his man, there was someone else on us right away. And to try and get that third guy open was difficult.”
KP had the first possession of the fourth but Pat Morrison and Liam Arsenault combined to force a turnover and Franklin cashed in in transition as sophomore Matt Lazzaro found Greco open in front for an easy finish.
The Warriors pulled one back at the midway point of the fourth as Mattson drew multiple defenders before finding senior Colin DeVellis cutting in front for a close-range finish.
Davis answered less than a minute later on a feed from Greco but Longobardi scored nine seconds later, winning the faceoff and going straight to goal to make it 9-5.
Davis tallied twice more in the final four minutes to make it 11-5.
“[McKinney] played well, he made some nice saves,” Verrochi said. “We have some excellent shooters, some kids that can really shoot the ball.
We rode really tough, and we’ve been doing that all year long. The kids have really bought into that and they are making it tough [for opponents].”
While Franklin clinches another league title, King Philip dropped its third straight contest. But with all three coming against top competition and the Warriors playing well in all three, Bean believes these games will pay off down the road.
“We’re very positive right now,” Bean said. “We are enjoying how we’re playing, they are a tight-knit group. We got pizza after the loss at Grafton. They are upbeat right now. They understand they are playing good lacrosse. They are playing as a team, they work hard, so I expect a lot more wins coming up.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. It’s tough to rank players in terms of importance on the field, but there is certainly no doubting the value in Franklin junior face off specialist Jacob Alexander.
Alexander’s second half dominance at the face off X translated into a big half for the fourth-seeded Panthers, resulting in a 13-7 win #13 Mansfield.
The two Kelley-Rex division rivals were knotted 4-4 at halftime but Franklin dominated time of possession and scoring chances thanks in part to Alexander’s continued success at the ‘X.’ Those possessions and chances resulted in an 8-0 run over the third and fourth quarters.
“It all starts with Jacob, he’s such a key component to our success,” said Franklin head coach Lou Verrochi. “What can you say? He’s winning 86% of his face offs, he’s such a tough draw for any team. He’s so talented, and for a kid his size, he’s got good wheels, he can really play. He’s got great ground ball skills, great dodge skills…he could be an effective first line middie really.”
Mansfield had a strong start, racing out to a 3-1 lead after a quarter of play. But Franklin scored back-to-back goals within a minute span to tie the game. Franklin took its first lead at 4-3 but Mansfield tied it shortly before half.
“We were right in it but Alexander in the face off X, getting them all of those possessions really hurt,” said Mansfield head coach Tim Frias. “[Freshman] Nico [Holmes] is holding his own and he’s done really well but Alexander is a seasoned vet and it shows. I think in that third quarter we had two offensive possessions compared to the first half where it was a lot more back and forth. Franklin did a great job of possessing and making the most of their opportunities.”
Mansfield’s Danny DiGirolamo opened the scoring three minutes into the game and the Hornets nearly doubled it two minutes later but Franklin goalie Connor O’Rourke (12 saves) made a terrific one-on-one save. That save turned into transition for Franklin and senior Eric Civetti buried his shot on the other end to tie it.
The Hornets didn’t flinch though and capitalized on a transition chance of their own when senior Hunter Ferreira came racing down and buried a shot despite being double teamed. Mansfield survived a man-up opportunity from Franklin and drew a penalty in the process.
During the man-up chance, Ferreira went behind the net and then connected on a pass to Brad Grant right in front, who put the Hornets up 3-1 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
Franklin freshman Matt Lazzaro got things going for the Panthers in the second quarter, charging in from a tight angle before bouncing out in front and ripping a shot in. Lazzaro drew a penalty in the process and the Panthers cashed in less than a minute later when Civetti came from behind the net and found just enough space to sneak a shot in to tie the game.
The Panthers capitalized on the momentum and took the lead just over a minute later. Civetti backed his way down and found the slightest of angles to slip his shot inside the post for a 4-3 lead. Mansfield tied the game with three minutes left in the half when Ferreira found Connor Quirk right in front for the tying tally.
After winning the opening face off, Mansfield nearly forced a turnover but Alexander scooped up the loose ball. He was able to spin between two defenders and fired a bound shot in to put Franklin up 5-4 just 18 seconds into the third quarter.
Mansfield almost had the tying goal in transition but O’Rourke came up with another one-on-one save to preserve the lead. From there, it was all Franklin.
“Connor really came up big for us a couple of times in big moments,” Verrochi said. “If [Mansfield] gets those goals where he came up with brilliant saves, it’s a different game. He made a huge save when it was 3-1 too and if it gets to 4-1, you never know.”
Just 30 seconds after O’Rourke’s save, Franklin cashed in when Chase Tanner ripped a hard shot that bounced just before the goal line and in. Out of a timeout, junior Patrick Morrison found a cutting Ben Greco in front for a 7-4 lead.
With just 12 seconds left in the third, Civetti again worked his way from behind the net in front and found the top corner with his shot for an 8-4 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“I think the offense settled down,” Verrochi said of the second half. “Everything was a little tight in the first half. Once they settled down and looked for good possessions, things started to go our way. We stopped throwing the ball away which we did a couple of times which is uncharacteristic. But it’s a playoff game, emotions are high, but we settled down in the second half. The long possessions helped us and defensively we extended them a bit.”
Alexander continued to win at the X and Franklin’s offense continued to manufacture goals. Lazzaro converted on a breakaway after the Panthers forced turnover near midfield. Mansfield goalie Jack Munroe (13 saves) made a nice stop on a shot but Jonathan O’Glishen cleaned up the rebound for a 10-4 lead.
Sophomore Owen Palmieri made it 11-4 with a goal midway through the quarter and Civetti netted his fifth just a minute later for a 12-4 lead, capping the Panthers’ 8-0 run that started in the third quarter.
Mansfield’s Michael Reed snapped the scoreless drought with a nice individual effort with 4:23 to go. It marked the Hornets’ first goal since the 3:15 mark of the second quarter.
“We felt like we needed to extend on them so we did and I think it kind of took them out of the comfort zone that they were in during the first half,” Verrochi said. “We started to cause some turnovers and did better on the ground balls. We got some nice breaks and some nice finishes from Eric and Matty Lazzaro.”
Franklin boys lacrosse (16-3) advances to the D1 South quarterfinal round to take on #5 Xaverian (15-4), who beat Marshfield 11-4 in the first round. The game is scheduled for Saturday but a time has yet to be determined. Mansfield finishes the season at 9-9.
The Warriors trailed 5-0 after a quarter in last year’s contest before ultimately falling 9-5. This time around, they made sure to get off to a better start.
Foxboro dominated opening frame this year, building a 4-0 lead before having to hold off a Franklin comeback, eventually pulling out a 7-6 win in double overtime to beat the Panthers.
It’s the first Hockomock League loss for the Panthers since April 2014 (11-10 in overtime to King Philip), snapping a 49-game league win streak.
With the win, Foxboro clinched the 2018 Hockomock League Davenport division title, the program’s second in the last three years.
“We try to start fast and we don’t always get it but we did today,” said Foxboro head coach Matt Noone. “Last year we got off the bus and we were down. I told them we can’t lose the game right away. We knew we could play with them, they believed in the system and it showed. It was just a great game.
“Jake Addeche kept us in it, our man down was awesome tonight. Pat Kaveny did a great job on [Eric] Civetti and Pat Stapleton did a great job on [Matt] Lazzaro. We have good matchups and it’s good to have the ability to do that.”
Foxboro had the best chances in the first overtime despite Franklin junior Jacob Alexander winning the OT face off. Pressure from Kaveny forced an errant pass by the Panthers but the Warriors couldn’t solve Franklin goalie Connor O’Rourke.
O’Rourke made three of his 14 saves in the first overtime period to keep it level. Franklin had a second chance to get its offense going but lost the ball in transition.
Both sides had chances in the second overtime, both sending shots just wide. Addeche came up with his 14th save of the game, denying a wrap around low shot from Civetti, putting the Warriors on offense.
Senior Louis Piccolo was originally denied as he tried going to his right a couple of times but came back and whipped a quick sidearm shot that snuck in at the near post to give the Warriors the win.
“Special players make special plays and step up in the big moment.” Noone said. “That play Louis made, I was calling for him to make a pass and he stuck it like that, that was magical. We had a bunch of guys step up, [Brendan] Tully, Shayne [Kerrigan], my sophomores played great, Jake [Addeche] was awesome in goal…it was just a great night for Foxboro lacrosse.
“A game of inches, it felt like whoever had the next possession would win. There were a couple of times they had it and I thought, ‘Here we go,” but were able to get the stops we needed. It was just a great win for our program to show we can play with those programs. We’re trending in the right direction as we get ready for playoffs.”
Foxboro’s Brendan Tully opened the scoring just before the midway point of the first quarter, taking a feed from Andrew Whalen and depositing it into the back of the net. Just a minute later, Pete Conley ripped a rising shot to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead.
Just 15 seconds into an extra-man opportunity, the Warriors made it 3-0 when Piccolo picked out the top corner. And on the ensuing face-off, Shayne Kerrigan was able to corral a loose ball and raced all the way down before finding the back of the net with just a minute left in the opening quarter.
“[Jake] Addeche stood on his head, I think Connor [O’Rourke] played a great game as well, especially in the second half. But hats off to them, they outworked us in the first half for sure. I think we came in here a little too overconfident, seeing some of the stuff online, but they are kids, their heads aren’t where they should be sometimes.”
Franklin got on the board three minutes into the second quarter when Civetti found Nitin Chaudhury cutting to the goal and the junior made no mistake and buried it into the back of the net. But that would be the Panthers’ only goal of the half.
Foxboro extended its lead back to four with under a minute left in the second quarter as Mike Moses took a handoff from Kerrigan before whipping a shot on target for a 5-1 lead.
The Warriors’ offense continued to roll to begin the second half when Piccolo made it 6-1 less than three minutes into the frame, but Foxboro wouldn’t score again in regulation after that.
“Franklin is a great team, it wasn’t like we were trying to stall, they played sound defense and they fought back,” Noone said. “That’s a five-time defending Hockomock champs over there, they aren’t going to give it up easily. I’m proud of the effort today, we’ll win a game 1-0 if we have to.”
Franklin scored back-to-back goals just 16 seconds apart at the halfway point of the third quarter. First, Addeche was caught out of goal after a turnover, leading to an empty net goal from Civetti. Alexander won the faceoff, raced up, the ball bounced loose in front and Civetti pounced and scooped it into the back of the net to make it 6-3.
While the score stayed that way for the rest of the third, it took just seven seconds for Franklin to cut the deficit when the fourth quarter started. After another win from Alexander, he found Jake Davis who wasted no time in finding the back of the net with a hard shot.
The Warriors had a two-man up opportunity halfway through the final frame but couldn’t add onto its lead. Franklin had a man-up chance shortly after, and although they didn’t score during it, Chase Tanner used a wicked shot shortly after snuck under the crossbar to make it 6-5 with 4:46 to go.
Franklin tied the game 90 seconds later. Chaudhury made a nice move to gain some space and then found Civetti in front and the senior faked a low shot before dumping it in up high to tie the game.
Foxboro had a man-up chance following the goal but O’Rourke came up with a big stop at the tail end of it, giving Franklin possession with two minutes to go. The Panthers nearly had the game-winner with 1:25 left but hit the post.
“It’s a game of inches, and that’s exactly what that goal was,” Verrochi said of the winner. “It was just a situation, I think it was a backhand shot, and Connor was just a little off the post. What are you going to do there?”
Although it had been a running clock throughout the fourth quarter, there was still just enough time for a little history. In the final minute of a game that had long been decided, Franklin raced the ball up the right wing and immediately looked to find senior attacker Eric Civetti. He got it outside the crease on the left side and drove to the cage.
This wasn’t about the Panthers trying to run up the score, but to give the program’s all-time leading scorer the opportunity to set another record with his ninth goal of the game. Twice, Civetti had tied the record with eight in a game, but now he stands alone.
Even more important for Franklin was that the nine goals were part of a dominating 22-8 victory on Sunday afternoon against Longmeadow, one of the top-ranked teams in the state. This was the third time this week that the Panthers had scored 20-plus goals in a game. The first two were against a pair of the state’s newest programs (Taunton and Stoughton) and on Sunday it came against one of the state’s best.
“I was so afraid of this because of those two games and I’m just amazed,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “I’m blown away by the fact that we beat them the way we did. All the stars were aligned. It was just an incredible win. The kids played their butts off.”
The spotlight was rightfully on Civetti after the game. He scored four times in the opening quarter, as the Panthers jumped out to an 8-0 lead, and had seven goals by halftime, including his by now trademark around-the-defender’s-shoulder, no-look shot while backed up on the edge of the crease. He scored again to start the second half and then finished the game with one last goal in the closing seconds for the record.
“I didn’t think we were really going to get much of a chance at the end of the game,” Civetti said of the ninth goal, “but I’ve got great teammates and they always give me great opportunities to score.”
He added, “We were prepared. We knew we had to come out fast and that’s exactly what we did. The beginning of the year, we had a few problems on offense we had to work out. I think today was one of those games where we really built our confidence. We made sure we knew we can play with teams like this.”
Verrochi said of Civetti, “He can create his own offense. He’s been able to do it for four years now. He’s just an outstanding player and to do it against them was huge because defensively I thought they were very good, he just had a great game. He gets up for big games like this.”
It had been a difficult start to the season for the Panthers outside of league play. While Franklin is on the brink of another Kelley-Rex division title, the Panthers had struggled offensively against non-league opponents like BC High and Walpole and were in need of a marquee win on their resume.
While the offense will get the plaudits, the Franklin defense also stood tall against the powerful Longmeadow attack, Jack McGrath was tenacious with his close marking and O’Rourke made 14 saves, consistently coming up with big stops to stem the Lancers’ momentum and with accurate outlet passes that got the Panthers going in transition.
“He was solid,” said Verocchi of O’Rourke. “He always is. He deserves some All-American recognition.”
Civetti opened the scoring five minutes into the game and, following one of O’Rourke’s big saves, he then made a perfect pass from behind the cage to set up Zach Alexander in front. Chase Tanner rifled in Franklin’s third and Civetti spun a defender into the ground before finishing in close.
The Panthers were rolling and turned a big stick check from Trevor Raffin into a transition opportunity. LSM Patrick Morrison and Jake Davis played a give-and-go that left Morrison open for the fifth goal. Freshman Matt Lazzaro got his first with a rip to the corner, Civetti cleaned up the rebound of a Tanner shot, and then Civetti was given all day to wind up and fire.
Longmeadow scored at the buzzer to close out the first quarter but it was already 8-1.
“I think this was our best game offensively,” said Civetti. “We finally got clicking. It’s nice because you don’t have to rely on one-on-one. Whether it’s middie or attack, we’re all clicking.”
Jacob Alexander had controlled the face-off ‘X’ against one of the state’s premier face-off guys, but the Lancers started to win a few in the second quarter and started to cut into the lead. Civetti made it 9-1 but the visitors scored back-to-back goals before Tanner went low angle with a shot from distance through a crowd of legs. Civetti would score twice more before the half but the Lancers scored three and it was 12-6 at the break.
The thought of a comeback was ended in the first three minutes of the third quarter. O’Rourke intercepted a long pass and quickly started Franklin’s break with Davis feeding Civetti for his seventh of the afternoon. Nitin Chaudhury scored with a bouncing shot after racing straight down the middle of the field and 17 seconds later Jacob Alexander finished off a quick break from Sean Lazzaro’s pass.
After a pair of huge saves from O’Rourke while Longmeadow was man-up, Chaudhury set up Will Harvey for a goal and a 16-7 lead. Civetti again played provider on the next goal, picking out a cutting Matt Lazarro, who took the pass on the run and in one motion went behind his back to the top corner.
Davis tacked on two more, including a missile to the top corner at the buzzer and Franklin went into the final quarter with a 19-7 lead. Kyle McEniry (from Chaudhury) and another rocket from Davis (three goals and four assists) pushed the Panthers’ lead to as many as 14 (21-7).
“We put a few new things in and geez it worked to perfection,” said Verrochi. “In my wildest dreams I wouldn’t have expected to beat Longmeadow the way we did. To have running time in the fourth quarter against Longmeadow, I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Franklin (11-2, 9-0) will get back into league play on Wednesday night against Oliver Ames and can clinch at least a share of a sixth straight Kelley-Rex division title.
By HockomockSports.com Staff
2018 Hockomock League Boys Lacrosse Preview
2017 Record: 8-10
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Kevin Koppy
After coming up just one game shy of the postseason, Attleboro is aiming to make the playoffs for the first time in program history in 2018.
The Bombardiers doubled their victory total from 2016 to 2017, going from four to eight in the win column. Attleboro returns 11 players from last year’s squad and has a total of 12 seniors on the team. Now in its fourth year, interest in the program is growing rapidly with 17 combined freshmen on either varsity or the JV roster.
There will be a lot of experience on the defensive end for Big Blue. Junior captain Trevor Koppy is back for his third year as the Bombardiers’ starting goalie. He turned away 306 shots last year with a 64% save percentage. In front of Koppy, senior captain Dan Perry is back to anchor the defensive unit which features all seniors.
“Dan is a physical defender that has excellent field awareness and leads by example,” said AHS head coach Kevin Koppy. “He’s constantly hustling and fighting hard for loose balls.”
Perry is joined by classmates Jim Nordberg and Chris Reynolds on close defense while Matt Potter will man LSM and Matt Jiminez brins an extra long pole presence to the defensive unit. Another returner is senior Kyle Henry, resuming his role as the team’s primary faceoff man. Henry had a successful 2017 season in that role and Big Blue will rely on him to spark the offense once again.
Seniors Jimmy Burke and Aidan McKenna, junior Cam Littig, and sophomore Thomas Shipman return to the midfield for Attleboro. Big Blue will have some new faces on the attack with seniors TJ Infante, Shane Joubert, and Aidan Downey leading the way. Freshman Mike Strachan and Matt Perry will also be involved in Attleboro’s attack.
2017 Record: 8-10
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Bill Bendell
The Bulldogs found themselves in an unfamiliar position at the end of last season: on the outside looking in for the postseason.
Canton is looking to get back into the postseason this year after coming up just one game shy of qualifying. The Bulldogs won three straight to give themselves a chance but fell just short on the road against Abington in the final game of the season.
Using that as motivation, look for the Bulldogs to be right back in the mix this season. Leading the way will be senior captains Kevin Albert, Charlie O’Connor, and Griffin Roach. All three patrolled the midfield last season but could see time in other spots depending on how the lineup comes together.
O’Connor will step in to handle faceoffs but could miss some time early along with defensemen Brian Ghostlaw and Brendan Albert. Until Canton gets back to 100%, it will rely on senior Gabe Galeotos, junior George Kent, and sophomores Nick Mackay and Jace Emma to provide protection in front of sophomore goalie Jack Connolly. Connolly had a superb freshman season in the cage for the Bulldogs and will try to build upon that his season.
Junior Mike Shaw is back for his third year on attack for Canton, providing experience and leadership up front. Juniors Matt Martin and Dan Cohen, along with sophomores Chris Lavoie and David Allen will also figure into the Bulldogs’ offense this season.”
“We have a great group of kids this year with a nice blend of experienced players and new faces,” said CHS head coach Bill Bendell.
2017 Record: 11-9
2017 Finish: Reached D2 Central/East First Round
Coach: Matt Noone
It’s safe to say Foxboro head coach Matt Noone is optimistic about the 2018 season.
The Warriors graduated just three players total and return their starting goalie, the entire defensive unit, and top three scorers from a season ago. Foxboro’s record was a bit deceiving based on how much talent they had, with five one-goal losses and two two-goal losses. The Warriors were dropped in the opening game of the playoffs by just one goal after holding a multi-goal lead in the second half.
With so much of the line up back, Noone is hoping to turn those close losses into wins.
“We’re going to be a better team than we were last year,” Noone said. “We have to play within our system, and do the simple things…if we do that, we will be very good and very tough to beat. If they don’t, we’ll be losing those one-goal games again.”
It all starts with defense in Foxboro with Jake Addeche returning in the cage for his third season. Addeche (185 saves) is one of the best goalies in the region and will have a very experienced defense in front of him. Senior Pat Kaveny and junior Pat Stapleton will anchor the defense, both with equipped with plenty of skill and experience, while sophomores Ronnie MacLellan and Matt Lathrop each already have a year of varsity experience under their belts.
Junior Brendan Tully (24 goals, 15 assists) will pace the Warriors in the midfield (“His lacrosse IQ is off the charts,” Noone notes). Tully can help transition Foxboro from defense to offense, and his ability to keep possession helps the Warriors control the tempo. Tully is complemented in the middle by seniors Louis Blake and Mike Collins while both Shayne Kerrigan and Bobby Yerardi will be in the mix as well.
Offensively, the Warriors look to be well-balanced with Louis Piccolo (25 goals, 13 assists) back this year along with senior Mike Moses (18 goals, 20 assists), junior Pete Conley (15 goals, 23 assists) and senior Andrew Whalen.
2017 Record: 16-5
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Lou Verrochi
Expectations are high for the 2018 season based on the talent the Franklin Panthers boast this year.
“We return a very good team,” said FHS head coach Lou Verrochi. “We have a very good and deep bench too, we’re looking forward to the season.”
The long list of returning talent starts with All-American and 2017 HockomockSports.com Player of the Year Eric Civetti. Civetti (Rutgers commit) has been tormenting opposing defenses since his freshman year. He scored 70 goals and notched 24 assists as a sophomore, and then netted 79 goals and 21 assists last year, totaling 194 points between the two years. The Panthers will also boast senior Zach Alexander and freshman Matt Lazzaro on attack.
The midfield will be loaded with two talented lines available. Captains Kyle McEniry (10 goals, 21 assists) and Chase Tanner (29 goals, 10 assists) will be joined by the speedy Nitin Chaudhury (24 goals, 10 assists) on the Panthers first unit while Jake Davis, Johnny O’Glishen, and Owen Palmieri give Verrochi an incredibly talented second unit.
As if the midfield wasn’t loaded enough, the Panthers have 2017 HockomockSports.com Underclassman of the Year Jacob Alexander back to dominate the faceoff X. Alexander, who is committed to play at Bryant University, has dominated at the X for the past two years and really gives the Panthers an advantage in terms of getting possession. “He’s arguably the best FOGO in Mass,” Verrochi noted.
The defense will be anchored by junior Patrick Morrison (Rutgers commit) along with Trevor Raffin, Jack McGrath and Spencer Briggs. Sean Lazzaro will be our top LSM while the Panthers have plenty of talent as SSDM with Will Harvey, Ben Kolb, and Aaron Mollo in the mix. Backstopping the team in goal will be Colorado commit and captain Connor O’Rourke (169 saves, 64% save percentage).
2017 Record: 13-9
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South Quarterfinals
Coach: Hal Bean
The Warriors will be looking to replicate the success they had in the 2016 season again this year.
After finishing 9-2 in league play (second in the Kelley-Rex), the Warriors had an impressive postseason run, competing with top-seeded and eventual sectional champ BC High in the D1 South Quarterfinals.
A big reason why KP has had a lot of experience over the past four years is goalie Paul Macrina. Macrina is now manning the cage at Drexel University, so there are big shoes to fill in the cage this season for KP.
King Philip also has to find replacements for the production lost by LSM Zach D’Amico, attack Tim Watson (56 goals, 28 points – second in the Hockomock League), and defenseman Connor Khung – the first two selected to the 2017 HockomockSports.com First Team and Khung apart of the Second Team.
All is not lost though as the Warriors have junior Colin DeVellis back to spearhead the attack. DeVellis was fourth overall in the Hockomock League in points last season, scoring 22 goals and notching 36 assists (58 points). Another key piece will be senior Nate Minkwitz, who can make an impact on both ends of the field. Minkwitz had 13 goals and five assists last season and will aim to improve on that. Expect LSM Wesley Bishop and midfielder Aidan Bender to factor in this season as well.
2017 Record: 12-7
2017 Finish: Reached D1 South First Round
Coach: Tim Frias
Mansfield returns a good amount of talent from last year’s playoff squad so the Hornets will certainly be looking to book a return trip as well as compete for a Kelley-Rex title.
The Hornets return one of the most dangerous attackmen in the area in senior Hunter Ferreira. Ferreira’s combination of size, speed, and strength – as well as finishing ability – make him a must-watch for opposing defenses. Most will dedicate two defensemen his way but Ferreira still finished fifth in the league in points with 34 goals and 19 assists. Ferreira will be joined by returners Aidan Sacco and Mike Reed, giving the Hornets an experienced three-headed monster on offense.
The midfield is also loaded with experience behind returning starters Joe Cox (19 goals, 14 assists) and Danny DeGirolamo (17 goals, 15 assists). Cox, who was named to the 2017 HockomockSports.com Second Team, muscles his way through opponents, while DeGirolamo can use his speed to cause problems. Haig Megerdichian, Brett Kessler, Connor Quirk, and Brad Grant will all see time in the midfield as well.
Tommy Donnelly will anchor the defensive unit but the Hornets will have some new faces in back. Dan Plugis and Chris Copponi will both see a lot of minutes for the Hornets in front of goalie Jack Munroe, who stepped in last season and impressed in the cage.
“Our strength this year will be at the midfield with lots of legs,” said MHS head coach Tim Frias. “We should be good in transition as well.”
2017 Record: 4-13
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Jacob Scordato
Milford hasn’t had a ton of success overall since it joined the Hockomock League, but new head coach Jacob Scordato is hoping to change that going forward.
Scordato takes over a team that had just four wins a year ago and is the third coach in the past three years for the program.
“Our players are focused on making our program a successful one,” Scordato said. “Boys lacrosse in the Hockomock is known for being a tough league, and Milford lacrosse is going to be making a lot of noise from here on out.”
Although the Hawks don’t have an incredibly deep roster, the optimism stems from the experience returning on offense. UMass Boston commit and senior captain Andrew Gallagher (16 goals, 7 assists) will be a key weapon up front along with junior captains Ryan Hazard (41 goals, 10 assists) and Josh Ligor.
Scordato also expects junior newcomer Brendan White, who has had successful football and basketball seasons so far this school year, to make a big impact on offense for Milford. Defensively, Milford will rely on senior captain and midfielder Chase Blanchette.
2017 Record: 16-3
2017 Finish: Reached D2 Central/East Quarterfinals
Coach: Kevin Young
North Attleboro graduated a lot of talent from last year’s squad, so it’s no surprise head coach Kevin Young believes this season will be a big challenge for his young squad.
Although he expects it to be a challenge, the Rocketeers have built a strong program and will likely be in the mix for the division title with Foxboro. Big Red will be anchored by defenseman and captain Tom Lockavitch (Roger Williams commit) and senior LSM Max Fontes. Both Lockavitch and Fontes had tremendous junior seasons and were both honored by HockomockSports.com (first and second teams, respectively). Sophomores Brett Labonte and Will Yeomans will round out a strong defensive unit.
One of the biggest tasks will be filling the void left in goal with Hock MVP and long-time starter Dan MacDonald now graduated. The Rocketeers have three goalies in the mix with Young noting all are working hard to claim the starting spot. Junior Jack Puccio and sophomores Nate D’Amico and Jake McNeany will all be in the mix.
Captain Tommy Lindstrom (Springfield commit) will pace the offense with the help of sophomores Jack Connolly and Andy DeMattio. Faceoff specialist Jason McNeany (Cocker College commit) is also back and will be a key piece of the offense. Nick Ward, Damien Curtis, and Dan Conroy should carry the transition in the midfield with help from Ryan Rajotte and Matt McSweeney.
2017 Record: 8-10
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Ben Devlin
Oliver Ames nearly made it two straight years in the postseason but came up just one game shy of qualifying in 2017. So the goal is simple for the Tigers in 2018: get back to the tournament.
The Tigers return their top six scorers from last season, and now with a year more experience under their belts, should be ready to take on some of the top defenses in the league.
Assistant coach Ben Devlin takes over the reigns of the program, and the familiarity should help make for a smooth transition. Senior captains Eric LeBlanc (30 goals, 13 assists) and Owen Gallagher will spearhead the attack while senior captain Jack Lang will make an impact on both ends of the field while also handling faceoff duties. Junior Colin Bourne and sophomores Sam Stevens and Shane Kilkelly give the Tigers varsity experience in the midfield. Sophomore Frankie Ireland and freshman Remi Creighton will also figure into the mix on offense.
Devlin will have holes to fill on the defensive end but its excited about the skill that the Tigers have. Shane Murphy, Cullen Gallagher, and Matt Saba will be relied upon to carry the defensive unit while Rory Madden will handle LSM duties after missing last season. Nick Gillis will take over for Sean Cosgrove in net after impressing at the JV level.
“We are a couple years into rebuilding this program, which is difficult while playing in such a tough conference against some of the best players and coaches in the state,” Devlin said. “We’re young and inexperienced, but talented on defense. All I can ask is for my kids to play to their capabilities. If we do that I think we can win enough games this season to reach our goal.”
2017 Record: 7-11
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Jon Shocket
New head coach Jon Shocket is excited and optimistic that the 2018 season will be a successful one on the lacrosse field for the Sharon Eagles.
Shocket believes the Eagles have the lacrosse IQ and skill to get back to the postseason after missing out on qualification by two wins. A big reason for the optimism is the senior class.
“I have a really good senior group,” Shocket said. “If everyone buys into the system and trusts the process, this should be a fun season. This year, we have to make better decisions and move the ball around. It’s about working as a team instead of as individuals.”
The Eagles have experience at all positions on the field, starting with returning goalie Johnny Greenberg. Greenberg enters his third year as the starting goalie and will have good size in front of him. Both Sam Spencer and Coleman Loftus stand at 6’2 and look to be key pieces in the Eagles’ defensive unit.
In the midfield, Jimmy Fitzhenry, Chase Waxman, and Spencer Hall give the Eagles a well-balanced and experienced group. The three provide a combination of speed, strength, and skill that will help Sharon transition from defense to offense. Junior Matt Callan will handle faceoff duties while freshman LSM Tyler Freidman will be in the mix as well.
Senior Brett Litner brings a strong shot to the offense and will be tough to stop on the inside. Classmate Kadin Nestler gives the Eagles speed on the outside and makes the move from midfield to attack this year. Freshman Drew Litner rounds out the Eagles’ attacking unit.
2017 Record: 4-12
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Pat Healey
After winning four games in its inaugural season at the varsity level, Stoughton boys lacrosse is hoping to continue heading in the right direction this spring.
The Knights picked up wins over Milford twice, Taunton, and Norton and will look to be in competition with those squads again this year. Leading the blue collar group will be captains Justin Ly, Sean Doherty, and Danny Nakhili. Ly is a three-sport athlete that is willing to do the dirty work, Nakhili provides a lot of leadership in the midfield and uses his speed to give the offense a boost, and Doherty will handle the faceoff duties and provide an offensive punch.
Twins Nate and Alex Wilson bring skill to the long poles, Marty Barrett and Josh Cohen will be key pieces on defense, and Charlie Morgan, Luke Bainton, and Mike Tracey will all be in the mix offensively.
“I’m hoping for more wins,” said SHS head coach Pat Healey said in an interview with Stoughton Media Access. “Last year we got four under our belt which is great for a first-year program. We brought up a lot of freshmen this year from the youth program. But baby steps, this is a tough league so we’ll do as best as we can.
2017 Record: 0-18
2017 Finish: Missed playoffs
Coach: Brendan Chambers
Now in its third year as a varsity program, Taunton is aiming to progress day by day to continue to build the program.
The Tigers went without a win last season but bring seven starters back with another year of success on their belts. Junior goalie Ryan Williams returns in cage to give the Tigers a familiar face on the defensive end. Williams has been manning the cage for Taunton since the team moved to a varsity schedule.
In front of Williams will be junior Justin Demoga, a captain, that handles close defense. Head coach Brendan Chambers noted Demoga is great with positioning, takes a great approach, and is willing to learn and improve every day. Chambers noted Demoga will be tasked with menacing opponents’ best attack throughout the season.
In the midfield, junior captain Dylan Nichols provides leadership and experience for the Tigers. Nichols has the speed to make an impact on both ends of the field and Chambers is hoping for some offensive production out of the junior. Nichols will be joined by senior Chris Kanabayashi who will contribute to the offense with his hard shot.
Junior Noah Kuczewski is making the jump from JV to varsity and will be one of the Tigers’ main pieces on attack. Chambers is also relying on junior captain Joel Delgado, who put a lot of time in during the offseason to improve, to be an important part of the offense.
“Our goal this year is to continue to build on what we did last year,” Chambers said. “We want to increase our lacrosse IQ and try to be more competitive in all our games. Ideally, we’ll win a couple games and get better every day.”
FRANKLIN, Mass. – For the third year in a row, Franklin and Xaverian met in the Div. 1 South tournament but for the first time in this budding rivalry the Panthers entered Sunday evening’s game at Pisini Field as the favorite against the perennial power.
Despite the Hawks entering the playoffs with an 8-10 record, Franklin was not taking the Catholic Conference runner-up lightly knowing the pedigree of its opponent and the fact many of the players are also neighbors.. In fact, Franklin coach Lou Verrochi thought that his team may have been too fired up before the playoff opener.
“I think that they just ratcheted up,” Verrochi said, “and I think they left a lot in the locker room before they even got on the field. Adrenaline-wise, I think it was just flowing so fast and so hard that they sort of had to dial it down.”
Franklin struggled offensively against the Hawks, going scoreless for more than 16 minutes between the second and fourth quarters, and saw a furious fourth quarter rally run out of time in an 8-7 loss. Junior Eric Civetti led the way for Franklin with four goals, all of them in the fourth, but for large portions of the game he struggled to find space against senior Connor Sullivan.
“They had a clamp-down defender on Eric and their goalie came up with some great saves early and we just couldn’t solve that,” Verrochi explained. “I’ve said it before, when Eric gets going the rest of our offense feeds off that and he had a hard time getting going.”
He added, “It was a tough seed and I knew it was going to be a competitive game. They’re a legit program.”
The Panthers jumped out to an early lead three minutes in. Sullivan knocked the stick and ball out of Civetti’s hands but Nitin Chaudhury reacted first, scooped the loose ball, and dodged from the ‘X’ before finishing with a wrap around shot just under the bar.
Xaverian scored the next two goals to take its first lead of the night, but Franklin answered with 5:04 left in the first to tie the game at 2-2. Kyle McEniry fired a pass from behind the goal to a cutting Sam Arsenault and he fired a low angle shot from behind his marker that found the corner.
Sophomore FOGO Jacob Alexander was struggling in the first, being called for two false starts, and Xaverian took advantage to regain the lead at 3-2 on a left-handed finish by Jared Grier. Alexander would win 4-of-7 face-offs in the first quarter, but went on to lose only one more for the rest of the game (the only lost face-off on a disputed false start in the fourth).
The Panthers created chances in the second quarter, but were frequently stymied by freshman goalie Alexander Teagan, who made eight saves on the game, most of them on point-blank chances. Franklin goalie Connor O’Rourke was equally impressive with 10 saves on the night to keep the Panthers in it while the offense tried to find a rhythm.
“I thought their goalie kept them in it too,” said Verrochi. “It could’ve gone either way. He’s only a freshman; we though we could get some early goals against him but he wasn’t rattled at all…Connor is just the real deal.”
Sam Jean scored the first of three goals on the night for the Hawks to build a 5-2 lead, but Chase Tanner unleashed a laser into the top corner six minutes later to cut the Xaverian lead to 5-3. Alexander won the ensuing face-off and raced straight down the middle only for Teagan to stuff him at the end and then O’Rourke came through with a big save to rob Andrew Lee right before halftime.
At the break, Franklin assistant coach Fran Bositis tried to stir the Panthers, who had allowed Xaverian to control the tempo in the first half, but the halftime team talk did not seem to have much effect in the third quarter. The Panthers went scoreless for the full 12 minutes and Grier and Jean (with just one second on the clock) pushed the Hawks lead to 7-3.
Trailing by four goals, Franklin turned to Civetti to try and bring the Panthers back into the game. He finally found the breakthrough two minutes into the fourth, ending Franklin’s barren run, with a long-angle release after bullying Sullivan into a shooting position.
O’Rourke robbed Lee again two minutes later and Civetti made it count with a ridiculous finish. The Rutgers-commit backed into his marker on the left side of the goal and rather than turn to his stronger right side he fired a backhanded, practically underhand shot into the top corner.
“[Sullivan] was bigger, faster, stronger than Eric and they slid to him early,” Verrochi explained. “Sometimes [Eric] has a tendency to hold the ball too long…we don’t move like we should off the ball to give him a look at an open stick, but once he gets his mind set to go to goal there’s no stopping him.”
The Franklin bench was fired up and momentum seemed to be with the hosts. Civetti took that energy up another notch 20 seconds later when he dodged from the ‘X’ to the left and fired a backhanded shot around the shoulder of his marker on the run and again picked the corner.
The finish had the Franklin bench going crazy, but Xaverian got possession back and set out to run the clock. Jean scored a crucial goal with 1:40 remaining to regain the two-goal lead and Franklin could not take advantage of a man-up opportunity in the final minute.
Verrochi said, “Fourth quarter we came to life and made a ballgame out of it. That eighth goal was a bit of a killer. That took the wind out of our sails.”
Civetti tacked on a consolation goal in the final second (another impressive behind the back finish), but it was the visiting bench that was able to storm the field and celebrate the win.
It was the fifth one-goal loss of the season for Franklin (16-5), all of them to teams that are currently alive in the tournament and three of them to teams that earned top seeds in their respective brackets (BC High, Dover-Sherborn, and Walpole).
FRANKLIN, Mass. – The Panthers recently clinched another outright Kelley-Rex division title, Franklin’s third straight outright league title and fifth in a row overall, but there was still a feeling that the team needed a marquee win to add confidence ahead of the state tournament.
On Saturday afternoon at Pisini Field, Franklin was determined to make a statement about its potential for another tournament run against Newton North. Behind six goals from junior attacker Eric Civetti, eight saves by junior Connor O’Rourke, and a strong performance at the face-off ‘X’ by sophomore Jacob Alexander, the Panthers jumped all over the Tigers and earned a 9-6 win.
“It was a good team we played and our kids responded real well,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “That’s a good quality team and a good, quality win for us.”
Despite being the focal point of the Newton North defense, Civetti showed the range of his skills, scoring from long range and using his strength around the crease. The Rutgers University-commit scored three goals in the opening quarter and left Tigers coaches scrambling for a solution.
Verrochi said, “Civetti’s a stud. He’s just a goal scoring machine. He’s so hard to control. He’s just so talented, he’s got strong hands, and he’s very difficult to strip of the ball. He definitely deserves All-American this year.”
The Panthers stormed out of the gates to take a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Alexander won the opening face-off and the Panthers held the ball for two minutes before Packie Watson fed Civetti for a close range score.
The Tigers struggled to get any possession in the first and Franklin nearly doubled its lead when Nitin Chaudhury smacked the crossbar with a shot on the run. A minute later, Civetti muscled his marker to score on the edge of the crease.
With 2:22 left in the first, Civetti got his hat trick with a move from behind the cage. He pump faked a pass out in front that forced both Newton North defenders to take a step back and Civetti took advantage of the space to step in and finish with a backhand shot under the bar.
Verrochi was pleased with the great start that his team made. He said, “They were really excited to play this game today and part of the thought process was, from Packie Watson, ‘we haven’t beaten a real good team in a long time boys; we’re going to make sure this is a good game.’ They were very dedicated and very purposeful in what they did out here today.”
The Tigers got one before the end of the quarter (a highlight reel quality, behind-the-back shot by Bryce Adam) and then cut the lead to one early in the second. Civetti responded for Franklin. After smashing a shot off the bar that looked like it may have crossed the line, he collected a loose ball and went with a low angle shot into the corner.
Newton North had an opportunity to make it a very different game with eight minutes left in the half when it had a two-man advantage for 30 seconds, but O’Rourke denied the Tigers a crucial goal. O’Rourke made three saves during the man-down situation and Watson made the visitors pay when he scored in transition to turn a potential 4-3 game into a 5-2 lead.
“I can’t say enough about him,” said Verrochi about O’Rourke. “He’s our MVP. He plays lights out in big games and we’re very fortunate that he switched from attack to goalie. That was a huge transition for him and he’s been outstanding.”
That proved to be the turning point, as Franklin took control and put the Tigers on their heels. Sam Arsenault picked out Chaudhury on the edge of the crease to make it 6-2 and finish off a great move by the Panthers that saw everyone in attack touch the ball.
Civetti got his hands free and time for a rip into the top corner for a man-up goal early in the third and Arsenault added a goal off an assist by Kyle McEniry for a six-goal lead. The Tigers scored right before the end of the third, but Civetti restored the lead early in the fourth when he finished a transition sparked by a long run from sophomore pole Patrick Morrison.
The Tigers tried to make it close at the end, scoring the final three goals of the game to get back within three with 1:24 remaining. It was hard to get a run going though because Alexander continued to win every face-off for the Panthers. He won 17-of-20 for the game, including all five in the fourth quarter to help slow down the Tigers momentum.
“I think he’s the best in the state,” said Verrochi of Alexander, “even better than the [Lincoln-Sudbury] kid. I think he’s dominated every player he’s gone against this year and that’s huge. You’re almost guaranteed a possession every time there’s a face-off.”
Franklin (16-3) will finish off the regular season with Div. 3 power Dover-Sherborn on Wednesday and is expecting to be one of the top three or four seeds in the upcoming state tournament.
WESTWOOD, Mass. – Last season, the Franklin boys’ lacrosse team reached its first ever sectional semifinal after upsetting perennial power Xaverian at Pisini Field. On Sunday, a much younger Franklin team faced the same opponent at the same stage of the tournament, but in a different venue and with a much different final result.
The Panthers started well, but once the Hawks clicked on offense Franklin had little answer for a team that has found its footing (and its health) in recent weeks and is once again among the contenders for a Div. 1 title.
Xaverian pulled away in the second half and knocked out the Panthers 18-11, despite five goals and three assists from senior attacker Austin Kent, who was recently selected as the Hockomock League MVP.
“They were flat out better than us,” said Franklin coach Lou Verrochi. “[Sophomore goalie] Connor [O’Rourke] saw a lot of rubber today and…they’re just really good. They’re unselfish, they find the one more, they did all the things we’ve been preaching all year long.”
Verrochi continued, “We caught them at a time in the season when they’re on a roll. Early on, I don’t think they had found their identity, but now they have and I think they’re going to be a really tough team to beat.”
Xaverian jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Peter Thorbahn (four goals) and Nick Shaw, but Kent brought the Panthers back level.
On his first goal, Kent threw a shot fake that sent his marker tumbling to the ground before he unleashed a laser into the bottom corner past Michael Toomey. Two minutes later, Kent spun back to his left side and found the corner with an overhand finish to the far post.
The Panthers took the lead with Kent picking out sophomore Eric Civetti for the first of his three goals, but Xaverian answered right back to tie it again. In the closing seconds of the quarter, Kent fired a pass from the ‘X’ to a cutting Kyle McEniry, who put Franklin ahead 4-3 after one.
The score stayed the same for the next seven minutes before Thorbahn was given all day to line up a rip into the top corner to tie it. That started a 5-1 run for the Hawks that put them ahead to stay. Civetti scored with an overhand finish that make it 6-5 but Xaverian scored twice in the final minute, both on assists by Drew Lee to freshman Sam Jean.
“They spent a lot of time trying to shut off Nick Shaw and Pete Thorbahn and it really opened up room in between once we figured out how to get the ball to the back side to open areas,” said Xaverian coach Tim Gardner.
“When you spend a lot of time on one guy, the back side attack opens up and that’s why Sam Jean had a heck of a half.”
McEniry scored his second of the game, again on an assist by Kent, to open the second half, but another 5-1 run by the Hawks broke it wide open. After a Sean Sperzel goal, O’Rourke (nine saves) came up with the play of the game when he went post to post to somehow deny Lee when he was wide open at the back post. Packie Watson scored on an assist by Chase Tanner, but Xaverian answered with four straight before Civetti ended the run with a goal while being knocked down.
Franklin forced a turnover but a poor clearance was picked off by the Hawks for a dagger goal right before the end of the third quarter that extended the lead to 14-8.
Early in the game, the Franklin defensive unit of Sean Lockhart, Patrick Morrison, Gabe Murphy and Matt Pleshaw was shutting down the Hawks, but as the game wore on the Hawks just had too many weapons and were too good at forcing the Panthers to slide out of position.
“I think we did a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities and pressing our advantage,” said Gardner. “Obviously, they had a great game going on with their attack, but we got a lot of opportunities from the midfield coming downhill.”
Meanwhile, on the offensive side Franklin was stagnating as the Hawks sat on Kent and Civetti and tried to force other players to beat them. Verrochi saw plenty of promise from his younger players to give him confidence that in the coming years that strategy will not be as effective.
“One of the things we need to do is look to get more players involved,” he explained. “Our midfielders are kind of young, three sophomores, a freshman, and two juniors, so next year if these guys improve then we’re going to be able to be more dangerous.”
The Panthers could never mount much of a comeback in the fourth quarter, although Kent did score a hat trick in his final period with the Panthers.
“We’re going to definitely miss him,” said Verrochi. “He’s the real deal. He rose to the occasion today. This was a big challenge; they’re a big strong, physical defense and he sort of shut them up and put them in their place.”
Franklin finished the season with a record of 14-6.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.