GROTON — On Saturday afternoon, the Groton-Dunstable boys’ lacrosse team dominated the middle 24 minutes of the game, racking up a 5-0 advantage in scoring and 12-6 edge in scoring. That period of strong play was enough to overcome a shaky first and fourth quarter as the Crusaders held off a late charge from Littleton to claim a 6-4 win to improve to 3-3 on the season.
“I thought it was a solid effort for parts of the game, but we have yet to put together a complete 48-minute game as of yet,” said Groton-Dunstable coach Rick Arena. “We came out and our passing was sloppy, but it improved in the second and third quarter. We capitalized on our chances in the middle of the game and built a lead that I think we became too comfortable with and we almost let it slip away.”
Along with a strong team defensive effort, Crusaders goalkeeper P.J. Kendall came up with a solid effort in between the pipes. The sophomore came up with 12 saves, including a key stop during the final minute when Groton-Dunstable was down two men to help preserve the victory.
“Our defense did a nice job of limiting any drives to the net for most of the day,” said Arena. “On the occasions where they did attack with success, P.J. was there to make some big saves for us. I thought his effort in net for us was a big key to our win today.”
In a first quarter that saw most attacks fizzle out with a misdirected pass in the attack zone, the Tigers struck first in the final minute. With a power play winding down, Ryan LeClair sent a pass from the middle of the zone to Derek Bolivar on the left side, who bounced home a shot inside the left post from 30 feet to give Littleton a 1-0 advantage.
After a sluggish start, the Crusaders found their footing, getting the equalizer at the 2:29 mark of the second quarter. Anthony Roufos controlled the ball behind the net before sending a pass to Willy Stewart, who faked a shot before bouncing home a shot in the low left corner to tie the game at 1-1.
Groton-Dunstable continued to gain momentum, scoring twice in a 96-second span late in the opening half. Quintin Forbes set up a Mack Eberhardt bounce-shot that nestled inside the right post before Nick Irby came away with a loose ball during a scramble and lined a shot inside the left post for a power play goal that gave the Crusaders a 3-1 lead heading into the intermission.
The solid play of Groton-Dunstable carried over into the third quarter as they doubled their lead. Just over six minutes in, Forbes sent a pass to Matt Manning, who jab stepped, spun to his right and bounced a shot into the low left corner. Four and a half minutes later, Zach Cotoni sent a pass from behind the net to Forbes, who put a quick shot into the top left corner to make it 5-1.
Forbes returned the favor, setting up Cotoni for a goal with two and a half minutes left to give the Crusaders a 6-2 lead and it seemed they would coast from there. However, the Tigers fought back with a pair of goals just 21 seconds apart. Dan Johnson put a shot inside the right post and Brian Bowen followed with a shot in the low right corner. In the final minute, Littleton put two shots on net during a two-man power play, but Kendall came up with a pair of stops to seal the deal.
“Quintin had a real solid game for us and was all over the place today,” said Arena. “Matt Manning was solid on faceoffs throughout and helped us maintain possession a lot. There was a lot of good that happened today, but we can get better.”