By Sean Sweeney
LEOMINSTER — After sitting back for the first 36 minutes and trailing visiting North Middlesex Regional headed into the fourth quarter, the Leominster boys’ lacrosse team finally unlocked the urgency that wasn’t there.
A four-goal fourth by the Blue Devils forced overtime, and Leominster scored the game-winning 49 seconds in as the hosts came from behind to knock off the Patriots, 11-10, at Doyle Field.
“I’m really proud of the kids today,” said LHS coach Colin Davis.
“The effort was great. We really struggled, especially defensively, in the first half. We had some problems, some breakdowns. In the third, we played a little bit better defensively and hung around in the game. But in the fourth, the offense turned in on and went to the net, though. That was the key.”
Leominster (3-5) junior attack Cam Moran scored three straight goals to secure the victory for the Blue Devils, including the game-tying goal with 2:46 remaining in regulation before he scored the game-winner in sudden death. Shane Crayton and Tom O’Leary had scored goals in the first three minutes of the fourth to help set up a rather incredible finish against a North Middlesex (1-7) team that had a three-goal lead after three quarters.
“We did a really good job of taking care of the ball,” said NM coach Paul Giacobbe of the Patriots’ play in the first three. “We weren’t throwing it away and turning it over, we were winning the clamps and (Leominster) let us get it out to the wings. I thought we had played really well. But beyond that, we did a poor job on our two slides on defense.”
Leominster trailed, 9-6, when Crayton and O’Leary each potted a goal to pull the hosts within one, 9-8.
Yet as the Blue Devils tried to put the accelerator through the floor boards, a critical mistake seemingly put Leominster under the cosh: NM’s Kory Partridge (three goals) came up with a ground ball and raced in on the breakaway, dumping it behind LHS goalie Derek Houde to give the guests a 10-8 lead with 6:42 left.
“That’s usually when the head hanging starts,” Davis explained, “and that’s when we start to doubt ourselves, but today was different.
We started being urgent, and we needed every ground ball; there’s no time for lost possessions.”
Two and a half minutes later, Leominster went on a two-man advantage as North Middlesex was slapped with a pair of matching slashes. Twelve seconds later, with the Blue Devils passing back and forth on the left, Ross Howlett’s pass to Moran went low to beat Jake Baron, pulling the hosts to within one again, 10-9.
A minute later, Moran tied it up.
“It was desperation,” Moran said of his team’s play in the fourth. “We wanted to get the win; we’ve had a crappy season so far. We worked hard and fought for that.
“Our middies were moving the ball up top; I saw Tom O’Leary was stuck with it. Shane cut open, and I just came around the crease up top. I knew I’d find open space and he’d find me.”
“We had it written up on the whiteboard for a scouting report the last few days: (Moran is a) lefty, lefty, lefty. We kept letting him get to his left; I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why,” Giacobbe said.
In the overtime, NM had won the face-off — much like it had most of the game — and moved in toward goal. But the Pats lost the ball, and Crayton came up it. He raced up field and, with Moran subbing on for a long pole, passed to Matt Williams, who then gave it to Moran for the tally that won the game.
“(Davis) says low shots are the best,” Moran said. “It just bounced in. I was just trying to cut open for him. I knew (Williams) was going to draw a double or triple-team on him. I got open so he could dish off and we could get set up in the offensive zone.”
It was a 3-2 Leominster lead after the first quarter, but North Middlesex had controlled a great deal of the tempo and possession. Williams, Crayton, and Devin Moran had scored LHS’s first-quarter tallies while Corey DaSilva and Eric Murphy beat Houde.
In the second, NM took over with four straight goals in a five-goal quarter, as DaSilva, Partridge (team-high three goals), AJ Gearin, and Ryan MacDonald put the Pats up, 6-3, with 7:06 remaining in the half.
Devin Moran swept Leominster’s only goal of the quarter on a pass from behind the net, before Murphy dumped it low with 27 ticks remaining in the half to put NM up, 7-4.
Follow Sean Sweeney on Twitter @MrSeanMSweeney