Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Tigers Reach State Final Four
June 5, 2014 by Jason Baxter | No Comments

One year ago, the Chagrin Falls Tigers dropped the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association (OHSLA) Regional Final to University School, 13-7.The last two seasons, in…

One year ago, the Chagrin Falls Tigers dropped the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association (OHSLA) Regional Final to University School, 13-7.

The last two seasons, in fact, have been ended by the Preppers, and three of the last four seasons.

And once again the Tigers will have chance to end the Preppers season on Wednesday in the OHSLA State Semifinals at CVCA High School. That was made possible when the Tigers defeated Rocky River 9-7 at Revere High School.

Chagrin Falls improved to 15-2 on the season, the most wins in school history. The Tigers are now 28-6 in the last two seasons, and 37-12 in three seasons under head coach Crispin Napolitano.

In the other Northeast Regional Final, University School advanced to the state semifinals with a 13-6 win over Westlake.

Chagrin Falls had lost 12 straight games to University School dating back to 2005 — that was until May 9, when the Tigers defeated the Preppers 12-8 at Chagrin Falls.

Tigers boys lacrosse coach Crispin Napolitano said it’s not about X’s and O’s anymore.

“It’s more about you need a little luck on your side, you need your boys to be healthy and focused,”?he said. “Those three things seem to play more into the outcome of the game more than anything else. You have four teams there for a reason; any of the four teams that played today could have gone all the way.

“The message to the boys was to have faith in what we had been practicing, and just go out and play with heart and execute.”

Chagrin Falls led 2-1 following the first quarter thanks to goals from TJ Subel and Tyler O’Brien. The Tigers would take a 3-1 lead early in the second quarter on yet another O’Brien goal, but the Pirates would add two goals to tie the game at three with 6:56 remaining in the half.

After a Rocky River two minute penalty, the Tigers would see a huge shift in momentum. Chagrin would score two goals during the one-man advantage: first a goal by sophomore Brett Sooy at 3:21, then another O’Brien goal at 2:41.

The two goals, scored within 40 seconds of each other, put the Tigers up 5-3 before Alex Baker joined the goal club at the 2:00 mark to take a 6-3 lead and force a Rocky River timeout.

“It was a battle,”?Napolitano said. “The first half was tough; they took a two minute penalty, we took advantage of it, and opened it up a little bit. They’re a well coached team. It’s a great win for us.”

The Pirates would turn the ball over with 18 seconds remaining in the half near their own goal, and the Tigers would take a timeout with 15 seconds left in the half. The Tigers would then sprint nearly the distance of the field, looking to have taken the Pirates by surprise.

But it would be no surprise who scored for the Tigers. O’Brien would take a feed from Sean Mackin and put it in the goal with two seconds remaining.

The goal was O’Brien’s fourth of the half, and gave the Tigers a commanding 7-3 lead at halftime.

O’Brien is a team leader, his coach said.

“He is a player,”?Napolitano said. “Today Tyler had the hot hand. We were getting him the ball, and he was finishing. That’s what we need guys like (Tyler O’Brien) to do.”

The Pirates would add two goals in the third quarter. The first one at 4:45 broke a nearly 12-minute scoring drought. The next, with 2:24 remaining in the quarter, would cut the deficit to 7-5 entering the fourth quarter.

When asked about holding the Pirates scoreless two separate times for more than 12 minutes and only giving up 13 goals in three playoff games, sophomore goalie Jackson Markley said, “It’s a combination of good communication and being ready for everything. Everyone is on their toes, everyone is able to make slides, and being back in the zone really helped.”

Markley said he’s looking past the pressure of being a sophomore in the state semifinals as goalie.

“Being a goalie is a different mindset,” he said. “You have to look past everything, and play your game every time.”

Chagrin answered early in the fourth quarter (10:12 mark) on O’Brien’s fifth goal of the game to push the lead back to 8-5. The Marist signee and second team All-Ohioan from a season ago would add his sixth goal of the game at the 9:08 mark to push the lead to 9-5.

When asked how his team has approached late season games, O’Brien said, “It’s all game plan, playing the zone, getting the looks wide open on the crease, moving the ball, and keep on getting that one more. It’s what our offense is all about.”

Sophomore Garrett Bontempo, who has been coached by Napolitano since seventh grade, added, “They’re like fathers to us. We’re all brothers, we’re a family. It’s just there, the commodore is there, it’s just clicking.”

The Tigers held the Pirates scoreless over the next eight minutes before conceding a goal with a little more than a minute left. They would then hold possession to close out the win.

Speaking about the legacy of this year’s seniors (O’Brien and Blake Eagle), O’Brien said, “It’s amazing. Every day can be our last, being the only two seniors surrounded by incredible juniors and underclassmen. Without them we couldn’t have done what we did.”

The winner of the University School vs. Chagrin Falls game on June 4 will earn a trip to the state championship this Saturday in Olentangy. That team will play the winner of Columbus Mariemont vs. Toledo St. Francis DeSales. Interestingly, two of the three losses for Toledo St. Francis were by Kenston and University School early in the season.

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