H.S. Boys Lacrosse: Frontier should stack up in semifinal showdown with Clarence
Before Clarence can punch its ticket to return to the sectional championship game for what most in Western New York lacrosse circles believe will be a Class A rematch with Orchard Park, Frontier could have something to say about it.
Second-seeded Clarence, which will host the third seed in a semifinal showdown on Friday, May 25 at 4:30 p.m., may have beaten the Falcons twice this season but did so in a pair of very competitive affairs.
Frontier fell 8-7 at Clarence as neither team scored in the fourth quarter in first few weeks of the season, before falling 7-4 at home in a game that was knotted up at four aside going into the final quarter. In the more recent game, Clarence took a 5-4 lead before scoring two late goals as Frontier pushed up trying to get the equalizer.
“We’ve played them tough. Both we’re basically one-goal games,” Frontier head coach Chris Stack said.
Though Clarence and Orchard Park fared the best of the top four teams in Class A during the regular season, Stack said he was not surprised how closely his team and Lancaster played with both finalists from last season. Frontier, which defeated Lancaster twice by one goal to garner the three seed, lost only 12-8 to Orchard Park on May 14.
Stack believes his squad athletically can play right with any of them. The Falcons finished 4-4 in league play and 7-8 overall.
“I thought that any one of the four teams could take it and now it’s come down to that,” Stack said. “We’re pretty athletic. It’s a matter of whether we can get past the name on the jersey in playing Clarence and Orchard Park.”
The Falcons may have actually taken a step toward getting over that hump by scrimmaging Western New York’s top-ranked team and cross-town rival Hamburg on Thursday (May 17). Stack said getting to play up a level already showed two days later in dominating Cathedral Prep (PA.) in the team’s regular season finale.
He could see a difference in the ball movement, tempo of play and his player’s eagerness to go after ground balls. Stack noted that when his team is playing at its best, three to four players are getting to ground balls at one time and offensively, they’re making that one extra pass.
“Hamburg is the class of Western New York. We took our lumps early, but then settled in and grew some confidence,” Stack said. “Our kids by the end, we’re saying, ‘Coach, we should try to scrimmage them more often because we got better today from it.’ And we did.”
Stack said he’ll need Canisius College-bound senior Jim May and junior Jimmy Smith, both midfielders, to continue to get their goals but also involve others, as well. Senior attackman Jordan Schmidt is another player who’s helped carry the team’s play. Junior attackman Alex Zwack could be the player to help put Frontier over the top if he is at his best around the goal, according to Stack.
Aside from a few hiccups during the season, Frontier’s defense has been solid, led by senior three-year starting goalkeeper Joe Schwartzott, who will play next year at Mercyhurst. Stack regards him as Western New York’s best netminder. He had 23 saves in the latest game against Orchard Park and 16 in one of the games against Clarence. Schwartzott also makes Frontier that much better in the clearing game.
What has helped the defensive unit thrive is the emergence of freshman Connor Harman, who has joined seniors Eric Meyer, who will play next year at RIT, and Marco Maronski and freshman Brandon May to create a formidable foursome. Braden Chudzik stepped into a larger role Saturday as Meyers nurses a rolled ankle, which occurred in the loss to Orchard Park. Stack also noted that senior Ed McGrew has been all over the field as a short stick defender.
Frontier defensive middie Nick King, who scored the game-tying and winning goal against Lancaster, has been lost for the season after suffering second degree burns.
The Falcons have experienced their struggles in the face-off circle. Stack believes his team needs to get that figured out to have a chance to reverse the tide against Clarence, which is one of the best on the draw in the area.
“We’ve been struggling in that department,” Stack said. “If we can get that figured out and go at least .500 there, I think we’ve got a good chance, because we’ve been playing some good lacrosse.”
In other sectional tournament action, senior middie Oshea Rodgers scored the only two goals of the fourth quarter to lead seventh-seeded Lake Shore to a 6-5 win over No. 10 West Seneca West in a Class B pre-quarterfinal on May 18.
The game-winner was sprung by the effort of senior long pole defender Ronnie Thompson, who led the play up field in transition before finding Rodgers with a pass. Senior Patrick Gilman also scored twice for Lake Shore, which trailed 4-3 at halftime. Senior Roy Jimerson and junior Evan Fuller added goals and senior goalie Clayton Chachulski stopped 12 shots, including making some key saves down the stretch.
The Eagles fell 18-3 to second-seeded Niagara-Wheatfield in the next round on May 22. Also that day in Class B, top-seeded Hamburg defeated No. 8 Williamsville East, 15-2. Defending champion Wheatfield knocked off Hamburg in last year’s title game. The two are a game away from meeting again for the title. In a Class C quarterfinal, fifth-seeded Eden fell 11-10 at No. 4 East Aurora on May 22.
Also locally, St. Francis finished its regular season with wins in four of five games, capped by a 12-11 victory at Canisius on May 21 behind four goals from junior Alex Misterman. The Red Raiders, who improved to 11-6 overall and 5-5 in Monsignor Martin play, now await their opponent in the league playoffs.