There was no fourth-quarter comeback for the Chagrin Falls boys lacrosse team during the No. 2-seeded Tigers’ playoff opener against Kenston on Monday night at their home C.S. Harris Stadium.
While Chagrin Falls didn’t own a lead until 7:40 remained of its regular-season rivalry battle against the Bombers on April 27 – coming out an 8-6 victor – the Tiger laxers led from wire to wire for a postseason knockout of Kenston, 16-5.
Chagrin freshman midfielder Cam Croasdaile buried the first tally on an assist from senior attackman Alex Morris just 70 seconds into the rematch, as the Tigers (15-3) never left a doubt in the Division II, Region 6 round of 16.
“We just focused on playing unselfish, moving the ball around and finding the best shot we could take, not the first shot,” said Morris, who finished with a game-high five goals and four assists.
The Chagrin boys now have eight straight victories against their rivals, including a 4-0 mark under third-year head coach Paul Corto.
While Kenston (7-12) previously built a 3-0 lead at the quarter mark of that regular-season clash last month, Chagrin Falls flipped the script and took a 3-0 lead at the quarter mark of Monday’s affair.
Twelve seconds after Croasdaile scored, Chagrin junior faceoff guru John Cashy won a battle at the X, and junior attackman Cam Owen dished an assist to Morris for the 2-0 tally. Two minutes later, junior midfielder Ben Kniskern buried a feed from Morris for the 3-0 upper hand.
On defense, Chagrin senior Bradyn Carroll, junior Clark Reboul and junior Lucas Gaizutis put Kenston’s attack out of sorts, as Tiger 6-foot-6 senior all-American Otto Bergmann collected saves on all three shots he faced in the opening frame. He finished with seven.
“We knew we needed to come out hot,” Reboul said about righting the first-quarter ship. “Our offense put up a couple early, which was really nice for us. And always in the first quarter it’s a little sloppy for a defense, but we saw what they were doing, and, from then on, we knew what to lock down on.”
Morris dialed up Kniskern again to open the second quarter with a 4-0 lead, before Kenston could get on the board with junior midfielder Jonathan Abbarno’s assist to junior attackman Avery Bowen 15 minutes into play.
But with Chagrin’s Cashy winning his first 20 faceoffs, until losing one at the tail end of the third quarter, there was little Kenston could do to gain momentum while playing from behind. Finishing 20-of-21 at the X with seven groundballs and a goal on Monday, Cashy currently has the highest faceoff percentage in his program’s history.
“Throughout my development of the season, it’s been a lot of me almost verse myself, like struggling with mentality,” Cashy said. “So, I’m just making sure I’m taking it one face at a time and getting the fundamentals down as precisely as I can. I’ve been working a lot with Christian (Hoimes), Will (O’Brien) and even coach to make sure I’m at my best for the playoffs.”
While junior midfielder Will O’Brien collected eight groundballs and an assist against Kenston, he also scored an unassisted tally to provide Chagrin a 12-4 lead with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter.
With the game in the bag, Cashy came off the face, and sophomore specialist Christian Hoimes finished out the remainder of the game at X for the Tigers.
Although Chagrin ended its regular season with a pair of road losses against Toledo St. Francis de Sales, 10-3, last Thursday, and then against Division I Shaker Heights, 9-7, on Saturday, Cashy did not play in those games.
“A lot of what we wanted to focus on following those games was having a fresh start,” Cashy said. “Take the season as 0-0 and just move forward.”
Before those losses, Chagrin had already locked up the No. 2 seed in the 20-team region, but Kenston did not have any representation for the seed meeting and dropped to the bottom of the pecking order.
Realistically, the Bombers should have been a five to six seed with a shoo-in path to advance to the region quarterfinals instead of getting ousted by Chagrin Falls in the round of 16.
“I thought it was good for us that we played a strong team early on in the playoffs,” Chagrin’s Reboul said. “It just got us more fired up and ready for the tournament, and I think you could tell that was the case with the final score.”
Reboul meant business against Kenston, collecting eight groundballs and causing three Bomber turnovers, adding to his program record in the latter category.
Although Reboul is one of the Tigers’ most aggressive players, coach Corto has been preaching penalty-free play, as Chagrin’s man-down defense and turnovers being two critical elements that have allowed opponents to gain momentum this season.
“It’s just trusting the personnel on defense,” Reboul said about finding the happy medium between remaining aggressive for all those caused turnovers and trying to play penalty-free lacrosse.
“I have full confidence in Brad (Carroll), Scotty (McCormack) and Lucas (Gaizutis), if I go out and play my man as hard as I can that, if I force a pass, they won’t get beat,” he said. “Especially Lucas, he’ll just lock down a defender. He’s usually adjacent to me. So, that’s just an automatic turn back, and I can get another couple checks in.”
Chagrin owned a 7-2 lead at intermission with a goal from Owen and two more tallies from Morris later in the second quarter, before the Tigers erupted for eight goals to take command of a 15-4 upper hand in the third quarter.
Morris and Kniskern both had two goals and an assist in that third frame, while senior middy Griffin Lowe had a pair of tallies, O’Brien and Cashy had one goal apiece and junior middies Evan Bargar and Connor Brosnan each had an assist.
While Chagrin’s possession play allows the Tigers to put together a methodical attack, they also have the ability to tee off when the opportunity presents itself, Morris said.
“In the second half, we were focused on coming out as strong as we did in the beginning of the game,” he said. “And that transferred into our rides, which opened up a lot of fast-break opportunities.”
Freshman attacker Fritz Clark finished off the Tigers’ scoring on an unassisted tally in the fourth quarter for the eventual 16-5 victory.
Up next, Chagrin Falls will host Hawken School in the regional quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at C.S. Harris Stadium. The Tigers previously defeated the Hawks, 11-2, on April 12.
“We know our potential, but we also know how bad we can play if we don’t come out firing,” Morris said. “We’re just taking everything one game at a time and just not making the same mistake as last year of looking past an opponent.”