St. Joseph makes dream a reality
Everything had settled down, but the emotion bubbling within when St. Joseph attackman Ryan Corcoran stepped away from having a picture taken with other seniors to discuss the Cadets’ 14-11 Class S boys lacrosse championship game victory over Brookfield High on Saturday, June 14.
“I can’t explain it,” said seven-goal scorer Corcoran, when asked his thought process as the whistle sounded on the game and his scholastic career. “I can feel it, and each of us can feel it, but it’s surreal right now.
“It was a dream of ours to throw our stuff in the air, to have this weight off our shoulders. We’ve been after this a long time.”
St. Joseph coach Joe Izzo wasn’t surprised by the result but he was happy.
“I could tell this is a special group,” Izzo said after his eighth-seeded Cadets bested the seventh-seeded Bobcats at Jack Casagrande Field in Norwalk. “They had all the pieces...They were so dedicated. Every day that gave it their all. They deserve to be champions.”
St. Joseph had lost to Weston High, 9-8, in the state finals in 2013.
“We couldn’t, wouldn’t, let that happen again,” said Corcoran, who started versus Brookfield alongside classmates Jeff Marcantonio (goal), Brendan McGannon and Jorge Yoguez.
“We do have a lot of young kids, but they all have experience. We knew what we had to do.”
No one felt that sense of urgency more than junior Kyle Souza, who separated his right shoulder in October playing fall lacrosse. He got the clear to play in March and has been a mainstay.
With eight minutes remaining in the first half, however, Souza had to be escorted off the field by Cadet trainer Dan McDonagh, only to return six minutes later.
“Kyle took a stinger to his shoulder,” Izzo said. “He told me there was no way I was keeping him out of this...No way he was leaving his teammates.
“That’s what we tell the team — all in for the guy next to you and he’ll be all in for you.”
Souza went through the post-game line using his left hand and wincing, while shaking hands with the Bobcats.
“I was sliding (on defense) and made a diving check and hit it (the shoulder) just right,” he said.
“We’ve been dreaming of this since we were in eighth grade together. Nothing was going to stop us. Peter (Bashar) has a bloody nose. We left it all out there.”
Among those adopting that philosophy for the Cadets were Ryan Scinto, Christian Colon, McGannon and Yoguez, who played a smart physical game in front of junior keeper Mike Braddick (five saves). They took away cutting lanes and hounded the Bobcats on the edge.
Bashar, Mike Sudora, Chris Klabonski, Patrick Battista, Marcantonio, Rick Giordano, Mike Brennan and Preston Ouellette paced St. Joseph in the offense end, as the Cadets peppered Bobcat keeper Dan Dixon (13 saves) after a slow start.
St. Joseph (15-6) saw the Bobcats (16-7), out of the South-West Conference, go in front by two goals before coming back to take a 5-2 lead at the 2:27 of the first period.
Possession being crucial to a team’s success, the Cadets got a leg up from Filippo Petrini, who took the bulk of the draws for St. Joseph with Liam Massey chipping in, and St. Joseph won 17-of-24 faceoffs.
“Bringing this group back, most of them played, it took us time to settle in to what we do,” Izzo said.
A lot of what the Cadets do comes with practice.
“Every day we work on all our sets,” said Wilson, a junior and the facilitator for most of the St. Joseph offense. “It’s all about repetition.
“We caught them ball-watching early and that left it open (on the weakside) for Ryan (Corcoran). He sets the pace and we just follow him.”
Corcoran scored seven goals in the first half and Wilson had four assists of his game-high seven assists to go with two scores, as St. Joseph took a 10-6 lead into the second half.
Brookfield started fast again, this time in the third period to pull within 10-8, but St. Joseph answered with Wilson assisting Basher, who then found Corcoran in front for a 12-8 lead with 5:44 left in the third.
The Bobcats scored in the final minute of the quarter and St. Joseph took that three-goal advantage into the final frame.
At 5:56 of the fourth, Brookfield’s Tom Petrellese found the back of the net and the Bobcats were with two.
After the teams traded possessions, Corcoran showed patience and waited for Dixon to move first before finishing off a pass from Klabonski with 3:36 remaining in regulation.
Andrew Collins scored with 2:14 remaining to draw his team within 13-11.
Both teams coughed up possession, before the Cadets settled in and Colon completed the scoring with :32.4 remaining.
When asking how playing in the FCIAC helped his team, Izzo said, “Look around (at Greenwich and Staples warming up for the Class L final), these are FCIAC guys, these are Division I guys playing. They come at you wave after wave and you have to be near perfect to beat them.
“The speed we play at helps us out of conference and in the state tournament.
“Our guys were all in.”