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Double-R edges Avon, 9-8
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio -- Rocky River scored multiple goals in each of four quarters and held on for a 9-8 win over the Avon Eagles on Tuesday night.

Things went a little sideways for the Sons of Blackbeard after River had built a 7-2 lead by the late stages of the third period. Bolstered by four extra-man goals, a game Eagles squad outscored the Pirates, 6-2, over the final 15 minutes of play.

The contest on a balmy 64-degree evening at Rocky River Stadium marked a first for Rocky River Boys' Lacrosse: it was the opening of play in a newly-formed conference. The Pirates are now competing as member of the 10-team Northern Ohio Lacrosse League.

Making significant contributions to the first league win in school history were senior midfielder Will Bennett (two goals), senior defenseman Charlie Hudson (five caused turnovers, three ground balls), freshman attackman  Rowan McDougal (two goals), senior midfielder Nathan Robertson (goal, five assists), senior goalkeeper Reece Rochester (10 saves), senior attackman Hayden Weaver (goal, assist, three ground balls).

It was McDougal who got the Pirates going with his first career score, whistling a mid-slot 10-yarder into the net on an assist from Robertson at 8:56 of the opening frame. The Pirates didn't even allow a shot until the waning seconds of the first quarter and would take a 2-0 lead into the second. The River ride was sharp early, at one point thwarting three straight Avon clearing attempts in that opening stanza. Hudson registered a pair of spills in the first quarter and was a force throughout the game, hounding Eagle ball carriers and flipping numerous possessions deep in Pirate territory. 

The second period was a two-for-three exchange, with the home side winning that trade. Rocky River took a 5-2 lead into halftime.

River's cushion was extended to five goals with early-third scores by Will Bennett and senior attackman John Matis. But plenty of fight was remaining with the Eagles, who got two late-period goals and would outshoot the Pirates, 11-10, for the quarter.

The Pirates dented twine first in the final quarter (sophomore Wesley Bennett's first career goal), but Avon countered. River scored again -- a nifty Robertson goal at 7:42 -- to extend its lead to 9-5. In hindsight, the speedy senior's goal was of great importance. So too was the play of another senior at the other end of the field, 80 yards away.

Reece Rochester was backing a Pirate defense on its heels and backed into a corner by numerous penalties. After the Pirates had played 34 minutes of whistle-free lacrosse, they would play out much of the final period down a man and sometimes two. After making three early-quarter saves, Rochester was under duress. The Eagles got within three (9-6) on a goal by junior Nathan Stoklosa with two minutes-and-31 seconds remaining in the contest. A monster man-down save by Rochester at the 1:40 mark kept the River lead right there. The senior's 10th stop of the game came with a high degree of difficulty; it would prove to be a game-saver.

Senior Evan Barton scored an extra-man goal at the 43-second mark to get Avon within two. After a faceoff win and a statistically-uncredited Eagles goal -- on a tangle of sticks and cleats in front of the Pirate goal at the 17-second mark -- that River lead was down to one (9-8). Seventeen ticks later, the win by one would become official for the Pirates.

Avon finished the game 4-for-4 in extra-man situations. The Eagles outshot the Pirates, 29-25, and put 18 shots on frame to River's 12. Senior Nate Lewis was credited with two goals and an assist. Barton chimed in with a goal and two assists.

Both sides struggled a bit on the clear and in protecting the ball in general. Avon and Rocky River went a combined 27-of-41 (65.9%) on clearing attempts and combined on 48 turnovers (RR 25, Avon 23).

Tuesday's game marked River's 2021 home debut and the program's first home game in 680 days. The Pirates are now 4-1 over their last five home openers.

Rocky River (1-1, 1-0 NOLL) is scheduled to travel to Berea-Midpark for another NOLL contest on Thursday. 

by Skip Snow
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