RALEIGH — The Athens Drive and Cardinal Gibbons boys’ lacrosse teams have gotten familiar with one another in the last year.
The teams played each other three times in 2012. All the games were close, including Gibbons’ one-goal victory over the Jaguars in the state semifinals.
On Tuesday, the Conference 2 rivals met for the first time in 2013, and despite the Jaguars’ early five-goal lead, Gibbons rebounded in the second half to edge Athens 10-8.
It was a tough loss for the Jaguars (1-2), who were hoping to avenge last year’s games against the Crusaders and possibly send a message to the rest of the state.
“We really came out and focused on having a game plan and executing,” said first-year Athens head coach Jacob Manning. “We did, but they’re a fantastic team and they’re always going to make a run on you. The key is how you react and if we had just reacted better at a certain point we would have probably pulled it out.”
Robert Lavelle led the Crusaders (2-1) with six goals, while Danny Dorsett contributed two goals and four assists. The duo was involved in all but one score and helped Gibbons find the net nine times following intermission.
Manning was proud of how the Jaguars limited Crusader attackman Gannon Morrison to just one goal, but once Gibbons made the halftime adjustments and looked more for Lavelle the momentum shifted.
“Athens Drive is a great team and they came out ready to play and put us behind,” said Gibbons head coach Mike Curatolo. “It was a gut-check call for our guys and they started to claw their way back. We were able to handle the pressure and finish shots in the second half.”
Athens goalie Dane Peddicord finished with 12 saves, nine in the first half.
The Jaguar offense was equally impressive, with five different players scoring before intermission. Connor Gronbach, John Padden, Scott Baird, Matt Balog and Will Densmore all posted goals for Athens, who led 5-0 midway through the second period.
Manning recognized Jaguar captain Jake Hargrove, who posted three assists, and Jackson Wetherby, who drew the unenviable defensive assignment of guarding Morrison.
Dorsett scored late in the first half to give Gibbons some hope. The Crusaders halftime adjustments worked, as Lavelle found spots in the Jaguar defense and scored four times in the third period, forcing a 6-6 tie entering the fourth quarter.
“Lavelle is a hard worker and guys found him open and he was able to put those shots away,” Curatolo said. “Danny (Dorsett) is the stronghold of our team and the one who keeps us all together.”
Both teams traded goals in the fourth until Jeffrey Williams put the Crusaders ahead for good 9-8 with an unassisted goal at the 8:34 mark of the final period.
Gibbons was able to keep the ball away from Athens for most of the remainder of the contest, with Lavelle and Dorsett combining for one more score.