Wahconah Boys Pull Away Late in First Half of Title Game Win

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Wahconah boys lacrosse coach Joe O’Neill has built the program into one of the powers of Western Massachusetts.
But he won’t take credit for one of the biggest factors in Saturday’s 20-8 win over Pope Francis in the Western Mass Class B Championship game.
“Honestly? I barely know what’s going on on the faceoffs,” O’Neill said. “It’s like jiu jitsu out there.”
Fortunately for O’Neill, he has a sophomore who has dedicated himself to that key aspect of the game, and on Saturday, that dedication paid off.
Noah Poirier won 25 of 27 times at the faceoff spot to give Wahconah an overwhelming advantage in possession time.
Caden Padelford and Billy O’Neill made the most of that possession time with six goals apiece, and Devin Lampron and Jonah Smith added four and three goals respectively as Wahconah improved to 17-1 this spring.
Faceoffs are not everything in the sport, but when one team dominates in that area of the game, it usually ends up on the right side of the scoreboard as well.
O’Neill said there are a number of reasons Poirier was able to dominate.
“He works really, really hard in the off-season,” O’Neill said. “He goes to all the faceoff nights and faceoff clinics and things like that. And he’s a Western Mass champ for [152 pounds], and that’s all about body control, and it’s a natural position.
“He goes to faceoff clinics constantly, which is not exciting. It’s a room full of faceoff guys going at each other for like two hours, just facing off, with faceoff coaches who know what they’re doing.”
Poirier’s value to his high school team was on full display late in the first half on Saturday.
Pope Francis’ Gage Sperlonga scored with 36 seconds left in the half to make it a three-goal margin at 7-4.
Off Poirier’s win on the ensuing faceoff, Wahconah got right down the field and Padelford set up O’Neill to make it a four-goal margin.
Poirier got the next restart, and Lampron scored with an assist from O’Neill with 20 seconds left.
Another faceoff win led to another O’Neill goal with less than a second left in the half that sent Wahconah into the break ahead, 10-4.
The Cardinals never got closer the rest of the evening.
In the fourth quarter, Jon Howard put the game away when he converted an assist from Padelford to make it a 12-goal margin and send the game to running time.
As good as Wahconah’s offense was, Pope Francis keeper Matt Davis helped keep things from getting even more out of hand by stopping 15 shots.
Joe Massaro made seven saves in Wahconah’s goal to earn the win – his team’s second this spring against the Cardinals.
The first time they met, way back in Wahconah’s season opener, seems very long ago to the coach.
“The first game when we hadn’t been able to play on a full field yet?” O’Neill said when asked about the difference in the rematch. “We hadn’t been able to work on a ride or a clear or anything like that playing around in gyms and on tennis courts. Yeah, we’re a different team once we find our space.”
Photos from this game to come.
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