Wahconah Boys Finish Strong in Playoff Opener
DALTON, Mass. -- You have to wear a lot of hats to be a high school coach.
Sometimes, one of them is history teacher.
But Wahconah boys lacrosse coach Joe O’Neill did not have to work too hard to remind his players of the past during Monday’s Central/Western Massachusetts Division 3 quarter-final against Advanced Math and Science Academy.
Just four minutes into the second half, AMSA had the third-quarter goals and had trimmed a comfortable 9-2 lead to a four-goal margin.
O’Neill called timeout.
“Don’t have the same story as 2019,” O’Neill said later of the message he gave his squad. “Don’t have the same story. Write it differently.”
His player responded, authoring an 18-8 win that sends Wahconah into Wednesday’s sectional semi-finals, where it will host fourth-seeded North Middlesex (13-3), an 11-10 winner over Pope Francis on Monday.
Coincidentally, 11-10 is the same score of that 2019 game where Blackstone Valley Tech came from behind to beat Wahconah in the quarter-finals.
You probably would have to look that up to confirm it. The Wahconah players probably would not.
“It’s not a long time ago to us,” O’Neill said. “That’s our seniors right now.”
Fueled in part by that disappointment and the heartbreak of not having a chance to play the sport at all last spring, Wahconah has been on a tear this year, going 8-0 in the regular season and earning the top seed and a bye into Monday’s sectional round of eight.
After Advanced Math staged its comeback coming out of half-time, Wahconah answered with a pretty goal from Ernie Lampron off a no-look pass by Caden Padelford to ignite a 4-0 run that built the lead back to 13-5.
AMSA (6-8) never got closer than seven goals the rest of the way.
Ernie Lampron led Wahconah with six goals and two assists. Devin Lampron scored five, and Padelford finished with four goals and four assists.
Joe Massaro made three saves to earn the win in Wahconah’s goal.
With a number of Berkshire County squads struggling to maintain numbers and get back to pre-pandemic form, Wahconah often was not pushed during the regular season. O’Neill was able to schedule non-league games with trips to play Nipmuc and Northampton, but, in large part, Wahconah has had to create competitive situations in practices.
“We time it in practice on how competitive we make them,” O’Neill said. “There are some practices, honestly, it gets a little ugly out there.
“We made them go at each other, definitely, toward the end of the season because we saw these big layoffs coming. So we’d pick a practice here or there, and we’d let it go.”
Those rugged practices tapered off in the last week, O’Neill said.
“We studied and studied and studied film on [AMSA],” he said. “I have friends that are on the team that they just beat, Belchertown, and that helped put a scouting report there. They’re a good, solid, very disciplined, fundamental team. They’re definitely one of the better teams we played this year, for sure.”