Go ahead and watch the video highlights, even though you know the outcome. Then just try to keep your jaw from dropping, your eyes from widening, your head from shaking. There have been more than 350,000 Facebook views for the final minutes of Ward Melville’s earthshaking, Richter-Scale breaking rally in the state Class A final. And two weeks later, the aftershocks are still being felt.
“It’s clearly one of the best comebacks ever — college or high school. If you weren’t there, you’d never believe it,” Ward Melville coach Jay Negus said about the Patriots erasing a five-goal fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Pittsford, 10-9, in overtime to win their ninth state boys lacrosse title on June 10 in Rochester.
The ending was so unbelievable — four goals in the final 1:01 of regulation — that the United States Lacrosse Hall of Fame is researching the feat to see if there has ever been a greater comeback in terms of deficit and time remaining. “We probably won’t find anything definitive because not every state keeps accurate records, but we’re looking into it,” U.S. Lacrosse archivist Joe Finn told Newsday. “But from talking to people and reading about all the championships, I don’t recall anything even remotely close.”
It took Matthew Grillo’s goal with one second left in the first overtime period to ensure the stunning comeback wouldn’t be wasted. A comeback that also was highlighted by Eddie Muñoz’s natural hat trick in just 34 seconds and Michael Giaquinto’s faceoff wizardry.
“I never fully gave up, but I was definitely a little upset when we started going down,” said Giaquinto, who won 19 of 22 draws, including every single one in the fourth quarter and overtime. “But we were a fourth-quarter team and whenever we got down, we’d get that last-minute click to get us going.”
Though the title-game rally was in a class by itself, the Patriots were familiar with late-game deficits. They rallied to defeat Smithtown East, 9-8, in a rousing Long Island championship game and had several fourth-quarter comebacks during a 20-2 season.
In fact, before the playoffs began, Negus gave the team a spirited pep talk. “We needed a little refocusing. We felt that kids weren’t playing up to their potential,” Negus said. “We didn’t play four quarters. If we played four quarters, no team would’ve touched us. We had a habit of coming out slow and putting it into gear. A dangerous style to live by.”
The Patriots escaped the danger zone because of their diverse offense that included Grillo, Dylan Pallonetti and Andrew Lockhart on attack and Muñoz, Dominic Pryor and Zach Hobbes at midfield. Andrew McKenna and Alex Mazzone anchored an airtight defense.
“Some coaches develop their offense around one guy, but we always have moving parts,” Negus said. “The great thing about us is that we had some stars but we were balanced and that’s more important. It’s easier to stop one guy than it is to stop six. I want us to be a well-oiled machine.”
A machine that appeared to be malfunctioning until, quite literally, the last minute. “Not once did I see anyone sulk,” Negus said. “It says a lot about them and a lot about our program. What a great life lesson for those boys. Regardless of the situation, you never give up hope.”
You just might make history.
PATRIOTS’ road to the championship
Suffolk A playoffs
Half Hollow Hills East, 15-6
Smithtown East, 9-8
Long Island Championship
Pittsford, 10-9 (OT)