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RRemarkable! Double-R nets 'W' in double-OT
Will Bennett
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- A typical lacrosse game may often be comprised of some 50 or 60 shots. Some are wild misfires. Some are perfectly placed, bound for a tight corner and a public address proclamation, only to have them speared at the last moment by a goalkeeper with other ideas. Some shots are off, some are on, some are in. Many are not. And once in a great many shots comes a memorable one.

Saturday's marathon Rocky River-Columbus St. Francis game ended on just such a shot. A shot from the sidewinding, submarine cross of senior midfielder Will Bennett. A shot that found twine as the 56th minute of play was hitting triple zeroes on the Rocky River Stadium scoreboard clock. The Bennett goal was punctuation in a poetic seesaw tussle between the Pirates and Stallions. Not a comma to mark a pause followed by a faceoff. Not a period with a break and another quarter forthcoming. An exclamation point, closing out a tremendous 9-8 game. A 9-8 rematch of the 2012 Ohio High School Lacrosse Association DII Championship Game, a contest won by St. Francis. A 9-8 double-overtime game with masterful performances on both sides.

The mastery early on was all-River. With two goals coming from Bennett and two from freshman attackman Rowan McDougal, the Pirates (6-2) landed the first five scores of the afternoon. That lead was built by the third minute of the second quarter, and it wasn't so much field tilt over the opening 15 minutes as it was larceny. Rocky River played solid defense and flipped its fair share of possessions (the Pirates would log an impressive 15 caused turnovers in the game), but it was senior goalkeeper Reece Rochester keeping a lid on the Double-R cage. Rochester stopped the first six shots the Stallions put on frame. And then, over the back half of the second stanza, St. Francis appeared to figure him out. And perhaps Rochester lost an edge of confidence. If the latter was true, it would return in swashbuckling buccaneer boatloads later in the game.

The Stallions scored the final four goals of the second period. Half of those were scored by junior David Chintala, who went on to have a big game for St. Francis. Chintala finished the game with two goals and two assists. Late in the second, Rochester made one key save to keep River in front; perhaps that stop would carry over as confidence into the second half. But for the time being, the Stallions went into halftime with a one-goal deficit (5-4) and with a stable-full of momentum.  

The third quarter was marvelous lacrosse, with Rochester and his opposite -- freshman Gavin Burns -- turning in solid work. With d-poles harassing any cross that might dare possess the pellet near the net. And with solid transition shutdown work from both sides. It all resulted in a one-for-one exchange, McDougal's third of the afternoon at the 7:25-mark and a counter by sophomore Liam Harmon at 3:13. The Pirates and Stallions went into the fourth with the home side leading, 6-5.

Senior Andrew Mahle scored a game-tying goal at 11:04 of the fourth. The Sons of Blackbeard answered less than 90 seconds later when Nathan Robertson finished on a superb feed from fellow senior Hayden Weaver. The Stallions tied the game, 7-7, at 8:58 when junior Jackson Carawan scored on an assist from Chintala. Moments later, Rochester made a 10-bell save on a would-be go-ahead effort by St. Francis, and the contest then developed into a defensive struggle with neither side able to break through.

With 1:30 remaining in the fourth, Carawan netted his third of the game to put the Stallions in front, 8-7. St. Francis won the ensuing faceoff (junior Will Jordan came up big in a continuation of what was a hard-fought and successful day at the logo) and appeared to be headed for an impressive come-from-behind victory. But after a timeout, a double-team by defensemen Charlie Hudson and Robby Lang forced a turnover. River capitalized and got a game-tying goal from Weaver with 13.8 seconds remaining in regulation. More lacrosse would be necessary to split the Stallions and Pirates on the scoreboard, and the contest went into overtime.

The first four-minute overtime session was comprised of eight total shots and four on frame. The four on frame were divvied up as two saves apiece for Messrs. Burns and Rochester, and the game went into overtime No. 2.  

The next four minutes played out with Rocky River in control but with only one shot on frame. That shot came as time expired. More on that effort in a moment.

Statistically, Saturday's game unravels into 17 goals, 81 shots (48 for the Pirates), 42 shots on goal (25 for the Stallions), 34 turnovers (just 12 committed by the Pirates), and 64 ground balls (34 by the Stallions). After those 56 minutes of yarn are unwound, we reach one shot at the core.

As the clock was winking down the final seconds of the second overtime, Will Bennett was being hounded at the point, 60 feet away from the Stallion cage. Bennett dodged left, then right. Only his No. 10 jersey was draped on him any tighter than the St. Francis defender. Bennett bolted left one more time -- and time was an ally no longer on his side. He then let loose a below-the-hip-fired, southpaw sidewinder. A turf bounce and a leg carom later, the ball was skipping across the goal line and into nylon. A double-overtime Pirate win.

Teammates spilled onto the field, exhausted but elated.

"Today, you could feel an energy shift and a belief in each other from the guys in our room," said Head Coach Bobby Perez, who was a player on River's 2012 squad -- one which also yielded eight goals to St. Francis but with a different result. "I couldn’t be more proud of our guys."

One very memorable shot and certainly a memorable ending. Remember, too, the remarkable field and goalkeeping plays turned in by both sides all along the way. They were many.


River finished the game as a plus-10 in turnover margin, with the Pirates committing 12 miscues to the Stallions' 22. Robby Lang (four), Will Bennett (three), Matthew McDonald, and Rowan McDougal (two) each filed multiple caused turnovers. ... Rocky River outshot St. Francis, 48-33, but the Stallions put more shots on goal (25-17). Reece Rochester carded 17 saves in the game.

WILL POWER: Bennett finished with three goals and now has a team-high 19 on the season. The senior middie notched his 70th career point with his game-winning shots. In two-plus seasons, Bennett has racked up 53 goals and 17 assists.

by Skip Snow

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