CARY — In an evenly-matched yet physical game, patience allowed the Athens Drive boys’ lacrosse team to get past Green Hope and secure a 12-8 victory.
The game remained scoreless for the first five minutes before the Jaguars took the early lead with a rifle shot from junior Justin Moody in front of the net. Green Hope responded quickly and senior Will Rhodes found the back of the net twice before the end of the first quarter.
Green Hope expanded its lead in the second quarter with goals from Elijah Murrane, Connor Anglin and Chris Brunetti, but Athens Drive’s Scott Baird and Matt Ward each secured a goal to keep their team within two.
Then the Jags rallied.
Turning point: After trailing Green Hope 5-3 at the half, Athens Drive came into the second half with new energy.
Within the first minutes of the third quarter, senior captain Jake Hargrove launched a quick shot off an assist from Matt Balog to bring the Jaguars within one goal. Junior Will Densmore hit a goal three minutes later to tie the game at 6-6, and from that point on Green Hope could not regain the lead.
Athens Drive built off their momentum to lead 7-6 at the end of the third, and then they let loose in the fourth quarter, outscoring Green Hope 5-2 in the final 12 minutes.
“It was the first goal of the second half that really got the momentum going,” said Baird, a junior.
Unsung hero: Green Hope secured an early lead because of the superb play of Rhodes, and despite trailing throughout the entire fourth quarter, Rhodes’ toughness helped keep Green Hope in the game. He racked up a total of four goals, and ran the offense strategically.
“He took the game into his hands, stepped up, brought his A-game, and he was the man. He made the shots he needed to and he took it over,” said coach Jack Bogwicz.
What worked: Athens Drive (5-6, 5-4) led an organized and effective offense that contrasted with the scrappy, reckless play of the Falcons. The Jaguars passed the ball well, controlled the play, and made Green Hope (4-5, 2-5) work for every shot they took.
“We needed to move the ball, and we needed to move it to the backside. Once we pushed the backside they didn’t have much of a slide so we had open shots,” said Baird.
The intensity of the game fueled physical play, and the Jaguars also used their aggression as an advantage.
“We hope that the game is physical. We have a lot of athletes, and we think we can out-hit, out-run and out-athlete other teams. We have a lot of football players,” said first-year coach Jacob Manning.
Green Hope picked up rebounds and scooped up loose balls and proved tough around the net. Falcons goalie Michael Roth made several crucial saves that kept his team in the game. Recovering from a recent ACL surgery, senior P.J. Morrissette also made big stops on defense to keep the score close.
Needs improvement: Athens Drive struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, and their difficulties were reflected in the low score and high number of turnovers.
“When things go wrong for us, it’s always fundamental things: passing, catching, picking up ground balls, and being in the right spot. That’s what we work on every day, so hopefully we can get better,” Manning said.
They recovered in the second half, and passed with precision to help capture several crucial goals.
The Falcons, on the other hand, played aggressively in the first half, but they had problems finding an open lane as the game progressed.
“It was all about executing, and we did that in the first half great, and we just gave them a bit of room, and they slipped some in. We started getting down, and they started coming back. They got the momentum, and they ran away with it,” Bogwicz said.
Going forward: Athens Drive looks to build on their win and rack up several more key victories in order to secure a playoff berth at the end of the season.
“We are taking it game by game. We are in a position where we need to win a few tough games to make the playoffs, so our goal is to make the playoffs,” said Manning.
The Jaguars will face Conference 2 leader Cardinal Gibbons on Friday.