MIDDLETOWN — In the de facto Central League lacrosse championship, Radnor and Penncrest produced a championship-worthy game Thursday night. The Lions needed two Robert Logan fourth-quarter goals to secure an entertaining, often-frantic 7-5 victory.
With less than a minute remaining, the Penncrest faithful, who packed the stands on the first dry night of the week, broke into an "Undefeated" chant. As the clock went to zero, the Lions swarmed goaltender Dylan McCleaft.
"Champions! Champions! Champions!" was their collective cry. It was a cheer full of bravado, but grounded in fact. In the win, Penncrest displayed its enviable depth, and that depth started in goal. McCleaft made 11 saves in his strongest effort of the season.
"(McCleaft) has stepped up and elevated his game to a whole new level," Penncrest coach Wayne Matsinger said. "He was a beast tonight."
After a shaky start — dismissed by Matsinger, who said "We've been doing that all year" — the defense shut down the Radnor attack led by Jack Norton, leaving the Raiders with hopeful shots from distance.
And then there's that vaunted offense. Despite a season low in goals, Penncrest's plethora of offensive options swayed the game. Leading scorer Will Manganiello found the net twice in the first 30 seconds of the second quarter to erase a 2-0 deficit. He added an assist on Ryan Kinnard's goal five minutes later.
"I knew we had to get something to spark the match," Manganiello said. "I took the role to do that."
But aside from that second-quarter stretch, the senior attack was held largely in check by the Raiders. Radnor's defensive trio of Mike Farnish, Dario Falcone and Hal Marshall were a nuisance all night for the Lions — in particular Manganiello. Longstick midfielder Sam Camp provided support as well, deflecting several Penncrest passes that his teammates scooped up.
"Their defense is great. We knew they were great coming into the game," Manganiello said. "On top of that, our defense played defense a lot. We knew we had to take advantage when we were on offense."
Five different Lions scored to supplement an off-night on the score sheet for Manganiello. Drew Hanna had a goal and an assist. Dylan Protesto won eight of 13 faceoffs and scored a late third-quarter goal to give Penncrest a 5-4 lead heading into the fourth.
"We have a lot of weapons," Matsinger said. "We are a matchup nightmare. Every single day someone new steps up and brings us over the top."
Thursday that was Logan.
"We have a lot of depth this year and it shows in the end," Logan said. "(Manganiello)'s our go-to guy, but it's nice to have a lot of guys who can score."
Logan's first goal, the game winner, came less than two minutes after Norton tied things at five. Logan fired a shot through traffic that bounced between Radnor goalie Alex Andersen's legs. His second was a trademark team goal. Billy Kinnard's leaping one-handed snag kept the ball in Penncrest's possession. He, in turn, found Hanna, who circled the goal. Logan watched the play unfold.
"I just ran down the field and saw Drew Hanna and kind of cut down and just stuck it,' Logan said. "It felt natural.'
His shot beat Andersen and Radnor.
The Raiders (11-1, 9-1 in the Central League) would be frustrated in a game in which they outplayed the Lions (16-0, 10-0) for long stretches. They held a 16-11 advantage in shots on goal. Radnor attempted nine shots to Penncrest's four in the fourth quarter alone.
Norton and Drew Ryan gave Radnor an early 2-0 lead. Owen Sheuerle and Jack Fischer scored late in the second quarter to give the Raiders a 4-3 halftime advantage. It proved to be their last.
"We wanted to play their offense six-on-six. We like our defense, we like our goalie a lot," Radnor coach John Begier said. "When we play six-on-six we know we have chances to shut teams down, keep it low scoring. We did that — I mean our defense did a really good job. Penncrest has a really good offensive group. Everyone that steps on the field for Penncrest is a threat to score. Our guys left everything out on the field."
"It's a tough game," Norton added. "We put everything into it. I know (we) stepped up to the challenge. We just couldn't get it done."
With the win Penncrest clinches at least a share of the Central League title. A date with Conestoga is the lone obstacle remaining in pursuit of perfection. If the Lions' "Champions!" chant is any indication, they want no business of a shared title.
"If we lose to '˜Stoga we share the title," Manganiello saidd. "I don't want to share that title."
In other Central League action:
Strath Haven 11, Haverford 10: Strath Haven came back from an early five-goal deficit to edge Haverford, with Jonah Tate netting the eventual winner late in the fourth period.
Freshman Jack Borbee paced the Panthers with three goals, while Bryan Mizell chipped in two tallies.
Bob McClure led Haverford with six goals, while Owen Green netted three in the loss.
Springfield 12, Lower Merion 7: Lucas Spence embraced the first sun-soaked day of the week by netting a pair of goals and dishing out three assists as Springfield topped Lower Merion. Mike Gerzabek and Luke Charamella each enjoyed hat tricks, while Dan Dickinson, Ryan Todaro, Dan Wasson and Joey Hoey each scored for Springfield. Netminder James Spence stopped 12 Aces shots in net for the Cougars, who improve to 10-3.