DOWNINGTOWN - Dylan Alderman was the first to admit he was nervous when he took the field for Bishop Shanahan on Thursday afternoon.
Alderman and his 10 senior teammates have been waiting for a game like this for four years. The captain was not about to disappoint, especially in a game of such magnitude on his team's home field.
After all, first place in the Ches-Mont League boys lacrosse title race was on the line.
Alderman showed up when his team needed him most, scoring a career-high five goals as the Eagles used a dominant second half to defeat Avon Grove 10-7 in a battle of the top teams in the Ches-Mont.
"It wasn't a mentality for me,' Alderman said. "I just felt like I was open most of the time and my teammates helped me out with the picks to get me open. We put in a lot of work and we needed to get this one. That was one of the best games I've been in.'
The win put Shanahan (7-0, 10-1) in sole possession of first place with three league games remaining, a position the Eagles are unfamiliar with. They were co-league champs with three other teams last season, including Avon Grove.
"To get a win on our home turf against Avon Grove, who's one of the best teams in the state no doubt, is awesome,' said Shanahan's John Mehok. "It gives credit to our team and our coaches who prepare us well for this and most importantly our senior leadership.'
That senior leadership is what drove the Eagles when it looked like the game was slowly slipping away from them.
Alderman scored his third goal of the game on a 20-foot blast to give Shanahan a 5-3 lead with 1:30 left in the first half. The Eagles had control of the game heading into halftime, but Avon Grove had other plans.
Tanner Peck scored on a one-timer to make it 5-4 with 0:45 left. Then, the Red Devils caught Shanahan and head coach John Heisman off guard.
While performing a substitution with less than 10 seconds left in the half, Avon Grove's Beau Kush tossed a long pass to a wide open Ryan Cook in front of Shanahan goalie Jason YoQuinto. Cook pushed the ball past YoQuinto with one second left to tie it 5-5.
Avon Grove (7-1, 10-4) had all the momentum heading into halftime. Heisman knew his team wasn't going to be dismantled after blowing that first-half lead.
"These kids have been through thick and thin,' Heisman said. "We played through all kinds of situations. That didn't really affect them too much. Our five captains believed in us and our vision over the years and that's what got us over the hump today.'
Cook's third goal put Avon Grove up 6-5, but Shanahan controlled the game from that point.
With Shanahan up a man, Mehok scored on a one-timer to make it 6-6 heading into the fourth quarter.
With the Eagles controlling possession early, Pat Corcoran tried to make a play in front of the net to get Alderman up for a shot. Instead, he got a better result.
During a scrum for a loose ball in front of the net, Corcoran picked up the ball and flicked it past Avon Grove goalie Will Schreiner for the go-ahead goal and a 7-6 Shanahan lead with 8:31 left.
Corcoran's initial reaction when he picked up the ball was to just shoot it.
"I was looking for the ball from the get-go after setting that pick for Dylan,' Corcoran said. "Once the ball hit the ground, I just saw it and went for the flick. Thankfully, it worked out.'
Alderman fired his fourth goal on Shanahan's next possession to give the Eagles an 8-6 lead with 6:30 to play. Sam Montgomery then scored to make it 9-6 with 3:23 left.
Alderman sealed it with his fifth and final goal of the afternoon with 2:24 to go. He has 32 goals on the year.
Alex Wagner scored two goals in the first half for Shanahan's other multiple goal scorer on the afternoon.
Cook led Avon Grove with three goals and Stephen Cyron had two.
The loss put Avon Grove one game in the loss column behind Shanahan for the Ches-Mont title with two league games remaining. Head coach Eric Jackson reminded the defending District 1 champions that they played a good team and plenty of goals can still be accomplished over the season.
"We're still a good team and we played against a good team,' Jackson said. "We just got out ground-balled and Jason (YoQuinto) played really well in the second half. We'll keep practicing, trying to get better and move forward.'
Shanahan won the game it had circled on its calendar since the season began, but the Eagles plan to not get too crazy with the win. The players know there is a lot of lacrosse to be played and the target is now on their back.
A true sign of a senior-led team.
"This feels great, but we still got plenty of games to be played,' Mehok said. "This win is definitely up there with the best ones I had here. We're excited to get after more of them now.'
Bishop Shanahan 10
Avon Grove 7
Avon Grove 2 3 1 1—7
Bishop Shanahan 1 4 1 4—10
Avon Grove goals: Cook 3, Cyron 2, Peck, Reid.
Bishop Shanahan goals: Alderman 5, Wagner 2, Corcoran, Mehok, Montgomery.
Goalie saves: Schreiner (AG) 6; YoQuinto (BS) 5.