Despite an 11-goal halftime deficit in a state championship game, the St. John the Baptist boys lacrosse team's mood remained upbeat.
"We knew we were better than what we had been playing like," senior attack Tim Nowak said. "They had 13 at the half and we thought we could put up 13 just as quickly as they did.''
But the host Cougars never managed to get it going well enough on offense and lost to Bishop Timon (Buffalo), 20-4, in the CHSAA Class AA state championship game Monday.
The school's boys lacrosse program began in 1972, and this was the first time the team advanced to the state championship game, according to athletic director Ralph Dalton.
"We made history," Nowak said. "So I'll be happy knowing that. These are my best friends and I'm just glad I can go out my senior year playing with them."
The Tigers (17-4) were led by junior attack Connor Fields, who had 11 goals and two assists.
The Cougars (10-9), in front of a large and supportive crowd, admitted that nerves had a lot to do with poor ball control, being somewhat stagnant on offense and making miscues on defense.
"We forgot basics and I think a lot of guys were very nervous," senior goalie and first-year starter Daghan Hart said. "We just didn't play our kind of lacrosse. Usually, defense is our strong point."
If not for the play of Hart, who had 12 saves, the margin might have been wider. Bishop Timon outmuscled the Cougars with constant stick checks, forcing many turnovers, which led to transition goals. Layne Collins and JD Recor each had a hat trick for the Tigers. Christian Turri led the Cougars with two goals.
After the game, SJB huddled together for one last time this season.
"I told them that we met our goals, which is always to get to the championship in our division," coach Larry Collins said. "We beat Fordham [Prep] for the first time in school history and we made the state championship for the first time, so it was special."