When the Cardinal Gibbons and Athens Drive boys lacrosse teams met on Friday, the first half was exactly what one would expect to see from two of the top three teams in the state.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, perennial power Gibbons showed in the second half why it holds the top spot in North Carolina rankings. The unbeaten Crusaders scored the first four goals after intermission and held on for an 8-6 victory over Athens.
It was the Jaguars (5-1) first loss of the season.
The teams were tied 3-3 at halftime, but the Crusaders (7-0) moved the ball more to playmakers Connor Prevost, Gannon Morrison and Tyler Van Horn in the second half to take control of the game. Van Horn’s goal with 6:50 left in the final period gave Gibbons a commanding 7-3 advantage.
The victory marked the 200th win for Gibbons head coach Mike Curatolo, whose team just made the move to arguably the best lacrosse conference in the state, Conference Two.
“It’s great to be a part of this,” Curatolo said. “The level of lacrosse play in Wake County has gotten better every year. I really want to complement Athens Drive. Tonight was just two teams battling it out.”
The Jaguars did make things interesting in the final minutes, scoring three times during the final 4:11. Seniors Daniel Haupt and Daniel Hughey led the Athens charge late in the game, with Haupt scoring and Hughey assisting all three times.
Curatolo said one of the keys was the defensive effort of seniors Luke Enzweiler and Nick Geaslen, who helped Crusader goalie Pete Shammas limit the high-octane Jaguar offense. Shammas finished with 15 saves.
Gibbons jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Jeff Williams and Morrison, but Athens answered as John Padden and Matt Balog found the net to tie the score 2-2 after one period.
Prevost scored the first of his three goals in the second quarter. Athens tied it 3-3 on Haupt’s first goal, with an assist from Jake Hargrove.
Matt Skowron scored midway through the third period to break the tie and get the Crusaders surging.
The two teams will meet again later in the year at Cardinal Gibbons High School.