ALLSTON, Mass. – It took a period, but once the Dover-Sherborn boys' lacrosse team got going, it wouldn’t be denied.
The Raiders scored 11 goals in a row after the opening quarter, turning an early 2-0 deficit into a rout as they defeated North Reading, 16-6, in the MIAA Division 3 state final at Harvard Stadium.
Seniors Jared Spence (4 goals, 3 assists) and Ben Newbert (goal, 5 assists) ended their high school careers in style, with plenty of help in the attacking end from junior Brandon Jaeger (5 goals).
And after so many close calls in years past –- including four losses in the final -– Dover-Sherborn finally has its first state championship.
“To finally win one was a nice feeling, that’s for sure,” Raiders head coach Brian McLaughlin said. “Especially with the five seniors we have – this is their third time (in a state final).”
A 2-1 deficit after one turned into a 7-2 lead at halftime, with Newbert scoring one of the goals and assisting three others. Jaeger scored twice, with freshman Matt Davies, senior Billy Polk and Spence also getting in on the act in the second period.
The Raiders (19-4) dominated the faceoffs, with Polk and junior Keaton Stoner combining to win 10 of the 11 faceoffs in the first half.
“If you can keep getting the ball in lacrosse, it’s tough for the other team,” McLaughlin said. “Since we controlled the ball and ran our offense through, it was a big plus for us.”
It was more of the same in the third period, as Davies, Spence and junior Matt Huemme all scored within the first four minutes to make it 10-2. D-S continued to dominate possession in the middle of the quarter, with only a couple saves by Hornet senior goalie Brian Conway on Newbert preventing the Raiders from increasing their lead.
They eventually did, however, with goals from seniors Peter Kostokos and Chris Flight to make it 12-2. North Reading senior Eric Valenti whipped on in from 15 yards out to finally stop the Radiers’ run with 1:13 left to go in the frame. Valenti and Jaeger swapped goals in the final minute of the period, and it was 13-4 in favor of D-S going into the fourth.
North Reading (22-2) head coach Chuck Campobasso credited Dover-Sherborn’s ability to keep control of the ball and limit his team’s opportunities.
“We didn’t have possession because they’re unbelievable,” Campobasso said. “They’re not gonna turn the ball over, they’re not gonna make mistakes.”
Spence scored 1:18 into the fourth to make it 14-4. Junior Michael O’Brien and senior Cody Carbone gave Hornet fans something to cheer about with back-to-back goals, making it 14-6, but Jaeger put the exclamation point on the Raiders’ fantastic season with his fourth and fifth goals in the closing minutes of the game.
North Reading started off strong, scoring the game’s first two goals. Junior Cameron Knight opened the scoring 2:02 in with a well-placed bounce shot from 14 yards out. Junior Anthony Lytle made it 2-0 with 5:20 to play in the first period, taking a pass from Valenti and going top shelf over D-S junior goalie Ryan Goodall’s shoulder.
Spence got the Raiders on the board just 35 seconds later with a goal from close range. Polk started the play with an excellent run from midfield, dodging three North Reading players in the process.
The Hornets outshot D-S in the first 12 minutes, 6-3, but Goodall made some good stops toward the end of the period to keep it a one-goal game.
“He made some great saves,” McLaughlin said. “They have a great offense, and they shot well. [Goodall] came up big for us.”
Newbert said he and his teammates were rushing their attack in the first quarter, but a more patient approach in the second turned the tide.
“After the first quarter, our coaches told us, ‘We’re not gonna get them back in the first 10 seconds. Just settle down; we got a whole game to play,’” Newbert said. “That’s what we did. We didn’t force the passes in the middle, and kids really ran their routes, made the cuts. Once that kinda settled us down, we really started getting going.”
Sophomore defenseman Zach Ambrosino played a solid game for Dover-Sherborn, picking up a couple key ground balls in his own zone to prevent the Hornets’ talented attackmen from getting shots on goal.
Valenti had two goals and two assists in his final game for North Reading. He’s one of eight seniors whom Campobasso said will have a long-lasting effect on the program.
“You see the excitement at some of our games, with some of the youth guys that they want to play for North Reading High School,” Campobasso said. “That’s their legacy…This is unbelievable, but it’s gonna be long-term with the amount of kids that are going to be coming out to play for us.”
This was the Raiders’ day, however, and one they went through plenty of growing pains to get to. The team lost in overtime to Scituate in the 2009 state championship, and fell by a goal in last year’s final to Weston.
Dover-Sherborn has been knocking on the door a long time. Wednesday, they finally burst through.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Newbert said. “More than anything, our coach, he’s been here so many times, and to finally win it for us and him, it was just a great way for us to go out."