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Tiger tale: Chagrin Falls halts Buccaneer bracket run
RR Boys' Lacrosse
STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- The Pirates came to the end of their playoff road Wednesday evening in Strongsville. Rocky River fell to the Chagrin Falls Tigers, 12-5, in a DII Ohio Tournament semifinal game.

A wonderfully game-planned and executed start to the game was answered with treble damages, as the Pirates were outscored by the Tigers, 11-2, after the opening period of play. With the victory in a rain-soaked contest at Pat Catan Stadium at Strongsville High School, Chagrin Falls advances to a Saturday DII title game against Cincinnati Mariemont.

With goals from three different players (Nathan Robertson, Ryan Hildebrand, Robby Lang) and big starts out of the gate by senior defenseman Charlie Hudson and senior goalkeeper Reece Rochester, Rocky River bolted to a 3-1 lead in the first quarter. The Double-R forced six Chagrin turnovers in that lid-lifting stanza, and the Pirates held all the momentum heading into the second quarter.

Mid-second goals by Fritz Clark and Owen Shaw leveled the contest at 3-3. Two late-period scores by Cam Croasdaile -- both assisted by Max Crandall -- vaulted the Tigers into the lead.

And in the lead is where the defending 2019 DII state champs would stay. Junior netminder Wes Kaas made three saves in keeping the Pirates off the scoreboard in the second, and Chagrin Falls went into halftime leading, 5-3. Kaas made five stops in the third. The Tigers came away with the lone goal in that stanza, and Chagrin went into the fourth leading, 6-3.

Things went a bit sideways for River in the fourth when the Tigers got their transition game into high gear, scoring multiple times on tic-tac-toe progressions through a tiring and overmatched Pirate midfield. A half-dozen goals -- mostly of the fast-break variety were answered by two Hayden Weaver scores, and the Tigers closed out their seven-goal win.

A clean game featured just three man-up chances, one for the Pirates and two for the Tigers. All three came up empty. For the game, River outshot Chagrin, 28-24. The Tigers put 19 shots on frame to the Pirates' 18. Reece Rochester logged seven saves for the Pirates; Wes Kaas registered 13 stops for Chagrin Falls.

River was a plus-9 in turnovers (15 to 24), but the Pirates couldn't capitalize on that leverage with several possessions fumbled in quick succession after takeaways.

Individual highlights for the Pirates included Hudson clocking seven ground balls and four caused turnovers. He finished his career as a 100-100 man in those statistical areas (125 ground balls, 100 caused turnovers). Weaver had four ground balls to go with his two goals. Nathan Robertson (goal, two assists) and Ryan Hildebrand (goal, assist) also logged multiple points in the game. Robby Lang added two ground balls and two spills to his first-period goal.

For Chagrin Falls, Fritz Clark finished with four goals. Michael Maschke had three goals and an assist, and Cam Croasdaile finished with two goals and four assists.

With their win Wednesday, the Tigers have now won 11 straight playoff games, dating back to their title run in 2019. Chagrin is now 14-2 all-time against the Pirates.

Rocky River (16-5) had a four-game win streak snapped with the loss in the semifinal. River had won 9-of-its-previous-10 games, and had done so with the fine play and leadership of 12 seniors (Danny Asmar, Will Bennett, Matthew George, Charlie Hudson, John Matis, Aidan McDonald, Matthew McDonald, Joey Riedl, Nathan Robertson, Reece Rochester, Tamer Salama, and Hayden Weaver).

That run now ends. What does not end, however, is the opportunity to grow through athletics, an endeavor which rewards hard-fought losses and the comradeship of team play: Not always in ways immediately evident but in ways that are meaningful and lasting for certain.

And with this team, one that got to the doorstep of a state championship game, something else doesn't end -- the pride of a town on the south shore of a Great lake and the west bank of the mighty Rocky River.

by Skip Snow

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