ROYERSFORD — The Spring-Ford boys lacrosse team was just trying to stay on course for a fourth straight Pioneer Athletic Conference championship.
By turning a three-goal halftime deficit into a 9-7 victory over archrival Owen J. Roberts Monday evening at Coach McNelly Stadium, Wildcats coach Jeff Neese was left searching the drawer for adhesive.
"I don't know where their composure went,' Neese said of OJR in the second half. "We talked about it all week long, stay composed, stay poised, stay confident and look what happened ... You've got to give a lot of credit to Spring-Ford. They made us come unglued.'
Spring-Ford cemented its place as the PAC-10's best with a dominant second-half display, allowing OJR just one goal in the final 24 minutes while overturning a 6-3 margin at the break. The Rams remain undefeated in the league (7-0, 7-2) with a regular season sweep of Owen J. Roberts (7-2, 8-2), the team they have met in all seven PAC-10 championship games in league history.
The Rams got two goals and two assists from Alex Marte and two goals and an assist from Zach Hare. For the Wildcats, Austin DelGatto led the way with three goals and two assists.
The result had everything to do with the Rams upping the intensity and ball pressure in the second half, making it difficult for the Wildcats to even get the ball into attack, leading to too many turnovers.
"That was one of the better halves we've played,' sophomore defenseman Liam Hare said. "Six goals in the first half was a little much for us (to allow) but we rallied and only gave them one in the second half. That was big for us. That was a game changer.'
Liam Hare, a pole who pairs with Brandon Dougherty, Parker Hartline and Connor Crawford as Rams starting defensemen, had a game-changing moment himself, getting an outlet pass early in the third quarter and going all the way to the OJR goal for the opening goal of the half.
"I was looking to get it to an attackman but nobody jumped on me so I kept going. I took a good shot I guess,' he said. "I couldn't believe that went in. I was so excited. I thought it was a big momentum swing to come out of halftime and get a quick, early goal and I was able to get it for us.'
It was followed by goals from Zach Hare and Danny Krieble to even the score at 6-6. The teams then exchanged scores five seconds apart — Jack Colt for OJR, Kevin Todd for Spring-Ford — to make it 7-7 with 6:36 to play.
Austin Pecharo's top shelf shot proved the eventual game-winner before Marte made up the final margin, capitalizing on a turnover deep in the OJR end while the Rams defense kept the door locked in front of goalie Matt Messerle (nine saves).
It erased a quality first half from the Wildcats, who closed on a 6-1 run through goals from Zach DeCarlo, DelGatto, Sam Garges and Chris Antich.
The second-half struggle was uncharacteristic of the way OJR has been playing against the rest of the PAC-10, according to Neese.
"Since we last saw these guys, they've played with tremendous confidence. They've been playing upbeat the whole time. It's in their head, until they beat them one time. Hopefully we get one more shot at it,' said Neese, hopeful of the teams meeting in an eighth straight PAC-10 final.
Another win over their traditional nearest rival has Spring-Ford feeling confident.
"(The Wildcats) are a good team and any time we can beat a team like them it gives us a lot of confidence,' Liam Hare said. "But we need to look forward to Perk Valley and Methacton because they are good teams, too, and we need to watch out for them.
"We're undefeated in the PAC-10 so far and we're still looking for the fourth straight PAC-10 championship. We're going to keep trying as hard as we can.'
OJR goalie Christian Wood made nine saves. ... Also getting on the scoring sheet was Jake Hvazda (goal) and Justin Schwenk (assist) for Spring-Ford, and Ben Hiltebeitel (assist) for OJR.