Ward Melville, with a heritage that makes it the all-time king of Suffolk County boys lacrosse, demonstrated Wednesday night that easy lies the head that wears the crown
The Patriots, known this season for its stifling defense, paired that with an efficient and prolific offense in taking down Connetquot, 13-5, in the Suffolk A championship game at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.
Ward Melville (16-3) won the county title for a record 24th time in 38 appearances and will face Syosset for the Class A Long Island championship on Saturday at Hofstra at 6 p.m. Connetquot (16-3), which won the regular-season meeting, 8-7, on April 26, was playing in its first county title game.
Chris Grillo came out smoking to help WM match its best offensive output of the season. The senior attack scored two of his goals in the first quarter, when the Patriots built a 4-0 lead, and added two more in the second quarter as Ward Meville took a commanding 8-1 lead. Grillo finished with five goals. Connor Grippe and Owen McAvoy contributed two goals each.
“To get off to a start like that gets everyone going,” Grillo said. “At halftime, when I looked up and saw 8, I thought we might break our season record.” The Patriots had scored 13 once before, against Smithtown East in a 13-12 victory on April 18, and average fewer than nine goals a game.
It was a first half that Ward Melville can add to its time capsule. Even with the Patriots’ impressive history, this one holds up, especially considering the offensive prowess of the Thunderbirds who got two goals each from Collin Grippo and George Wichelns.
Dominic Pryor got it started with a solo dash down the left side 2:10 into the game. Less than two minutes later, Grillo connected on a feed from Andrew Lockhart. Grippe let it rip just inside the right pipe and after the Patriots won a ground-ball battle near the sideline, Grillo scored unassisted to make it 4-0 after one.
With goalie D.J. Kellerman steering aside the rare Connetquot shot, thanks to John Day and the rest of the defense, the Patriots could afford to be patient with each possession. Still, they scored two goals in two minutes to make it 6-0 — Grillo on a cut to the slot and then Grippe with a neat double-dodge and finish.
Grippo finally scored for the Thunderbirds after Wichelns deflected a clearing pass by Kellerman right in front of the cage. But it was the Patriots who finished the half strong. Lockhart scored man-up with 2:50 left and then Grillo drilled one from a sharp angle with 7.3 seconds left to punctuate a half that provided a very comfortable cushion for a team with such a solid defense.
For the Patriots, the road to another Suffolk championship is well-traveled, but their journey last year ended in a crushing overtime loss to Smithtown West in the county final. They didn’t forget.
“It’s just that much sweeter to win this one,” Grillo said. “We felt the heartbreak last year.”