Norwell Stops Wahconah Run in State Semi-Finals
DALTON, Mass. -- Wahconah boys lacrosse coach Joe O'Neill was understandably a little emotional when he talked about the seniors who played their final high school game on Tuesday evening.
"This group of seniors, I've been around since they were [waist high]," O'Neill said, clearly struggling to find the words. "It's going to be tough losing them, but I'm happy to see them go on."
In a perfect world, they would have been going on to Thursday's Division 3 state championship game.
But the South sectional champion Norwell Clippers had other ideas.
Norwell (16-3) used its dominance at the faceoff spot and a strong performance in goal to hand Wahconah (11-1) an 18-9 loss and earn a date against Dover-Sherborn to decide the state title.
Ryan Daly made 12 saves for the Clippers, who jumped out to a 6-1 lead after one quarter and never led by fewer than two goals the rest of the way.
John Mullen scored two goals and assisted on two others in a balaned Norwell scoring attack. But his biggest impact came in the middle of the field, repeatedly earning faceoff wins to give the Clippers the majority of the offensive chances.
"Their faceoff guy, I believe he's a nationally-ranked faceoff guy, so that's a fight that's very difficult to win when you can't have the ball," O'Neill said.
"It was huge. The fact that our freshman [Noah Poirier] at times neutralized him and won some faceoffs was big. But that kid's next level. When Noah would do something a couple of times in a row, he would counter it. He had a whole toolbox of moves that he had."
Mullen's early dominance led to four Norwell goals in the first five minutes of play.
It was just after Brian Black scored to give the Clippers that advantage that the officials ordered the teams off the field due to a looming thunderstorm.
What was a 5 p.m. start did not resume until 7 p.m. O'Niell said Wahconah used the long break to regroup.
"When we were in the cafeteria, we had constant updates on times and things like that, so we were able to relax for a little bit, and then when we knew it was about time, we stretched out in lobby and that stuff," he said. "By the time we came out here, we were loose again, and we had a renewed vigor to us.
"Early on, we were losing guys on defense. We were losing the cutters on defense, and that's something we talked about going into the game. It's something that obviously, they exploited to start the game. And once we got that under control ... offensively, we started clicking.
"But that's a phenomenal goalie."
Wahconah's defense set the tone coming right out of the rain delay as Skye Patti and Trey Massaro combined to force a turnover on the sideline in the defensive zone that led to Wahconah's first goal by Jonah Smith.
Norwell scored twice more before the end of the quarter, but Wahconah narrowed the gap with three straight to open the second -- a pair from Devin Lampron and one by Ernie Lampron to make it 6-4.
Norwell answered with a 4-0 run to half-time to take a 10-4 lead.
Wahconah kept the margin in that neighborhood most of the second half before Jackson Chase and Nate Curtain scored the game's last goals in the final four minutes to provide the nine-goal margin.
Devin Lampron, Rylan Padelford and Caden Padelford each scored a pair of goals, and Joe Massaro made nine saves in the Wahconah goal.
While no one on the home side wanted to look at the scoreboard when all was said and done, they will want to look back on a season that saw Wahconah win the first sectional title by a Berkshire County boys lacrosse team since 2014.
"We had an amazing season," O'Neill said. "I've still got a trophy sitting in my living room right now because I can't put it in [the new Wahconah High School under construction near the varsity field].
"We're still Western/Central champs. Going into this, we knew it was bonus lacrosse. Obviously, you want to win them. You want to keep going. But at the end of the day, we're still the champs.
"We are the last Central/Western Mass champs."