It was certainly the way Duxbury’s 18 seniors wanted to end their high school lacrosse careers. After cruising through three play-off games with an average victory by 12 goals, the Dragons had to hold on in the fourth quarter and defuse a late Needham comeback bid to win its ninth State title in the last 11 years with a hard-earned 10-8 win over No. 6 seeded Needham HS on Wednesday night at Harvard Stadium.
It was an emotional night for Coach Chris Sweet, who watched his son score three goals to lead the Dragons in what was Sam’s final high school game for the father and son combo.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Coach Chris Sweet. “To be out here with Sam and to get to be with him every day on the field is a father’s dream. It’s been hard at times; I have to treat him like the rest of the guys. But as his father, I’m extremely proud of him. I’m sad it’s over, but it’s time for him and his classmates to move on in life.”
While at times it looked like the Dragons could turn it off and on against the Rockets, it appeared the offensive button got stuck in the off position for Duxbury as the game got into the fourth quarter, sending some uneasiness throughout the Duxbury faithful as the clock slowly ticked down.
Opening up with a three-goal outburst in the first quarter on scores by Sweet (2) and Jon Gomer, the Dragon defense continued its stellar post-season play by holding the Rockets scoreless, as Needham played a very deliberate style offense in trying to spread out Duxbury’s defense.
Needham would stay close in the second quarter, crawling to within 4-2 and 5-3, only to leave the field at halftime trailing 6-3 on Paul Hellar’s goal with 1:41 remaining.
Sweet and Will Siefert would give the Dragons some breathing room with third-quarter scores that made it 8-3, followed by matching goals from Needham’s Nico Panepinto and Duxbury’s Seamus Connelly that made it 9-4 with 3:42 left in the third quarter.
A five-goal lead surely had championship on the minds of the Dragons, but a six-goal lead on a spectacular defensive play and conversion by Chris Williams with 55 seconds left on the clock seemed to lead Duxbury toward cruise control for the final 12 minutes.
A quick Rocket score by Mark Riley cut the lead to 10-5 less than a minute into the quarter, and team MVP Henry Buonagurio made a big some saves to keep the comfortable lead intact.
After killing off a Duxbury man-up situation, Needham Coach Dave Wainwright called a timeout with 8:34 to go and his team facing the monumental task of recovering from a five-goal deficit.
Slowly but surely they started to chip away, as Panepinto, James Caruso, and Timmy Parloto scored to make it 10-8 with 5:53 left in the game. Momentum was clearly on Needham’s side when they gained possession once again. But with 3:20 to go, Buonagurio made a huge save to stem the tide. Unfortunately his teammate’s bad transition pass landed in the stick of a Needham forward, forcing Wainwright to gather his troops for one final push.
Compounding Duxbury’s plight was a penalty call giving Needham a man-up situation with 1:35 left. Killing off much of the penalty, the Dragons were able to get possession with 35 seconds remaining and take it down field, calling a timeout with 26 seconds left on the clock.
When play resumed Hellar put on a show, evading a Needham triple-team for almost 20 seconds and finally beating goaltender Lucas Davis with eight seconds remaining, only to have his goal disallowed because he was playing with just one glove.
Once the controversy had subsided, the remaining seconds ticked away and the Dragons rushed the field toward Buonagurio with sticks flying while celebrating another State title.
“It never gets old, it really doesn’t,” said Sweet. “Every year it’s a different group. Every team’s got a different personality. Duxbury has a tradition of players that come out and work their tail off every day in practice. When people ask me what the secret is, it’s hard work. Our guys are willing to come out as high school kids with a lot of distractions, work hard every day and make a lot of sacrifices socially. They show a lot of discipline and they just outwork everybody, plain and simple.”
On Thursday night the team held its annual break-up dinner and honored many of the team’s players for their achievements this year.
The Dragons had five All-Americans including: Chris Williams, Paul Hellar, James Burke, Matt O’Keefe, and Max Randall, along with nine Patriot League All-Stars that included Randall, O’Keefe, Williams, Burke, Hellar, Sam Sweet, Henry Narlee, Seamus Connelly, and Henry Buonagurio.
Senior Cam Mullins was rewarded with the Patriot League Sportsmanship Award, while the State champs were given the award for Team Sportsmanship in the Patriot League.
Year-end team honors went to: Rookie of The Year – Jack Sullivan, 11th Man Award – Henry Narlee, Burke Walker Award – Chris Williams, Booster Award Scholarship - Andrew Padula and Ken Jacobson, Jonathan Taylor Award – Jay McDermott and Will Siefert, Coaches Award – Seamus Connelly, Unsung Hero – Cam Mullins, Most Improved – Adam Fitzgerald, MVP Defensemen – Max Randall and Matt O’Keefe, MVP Midfielders – Reilly Naton and James Burke, MVP Attack – Paul Hellar and Team MVP Henry Buonagurio
Coach Sweet also announced the 2013 captains and they include: Narlee, Jay Walsh, C. J. LoConte, and Bobby O’Brien.