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Boys lacrosse: Homer defeats Carthage, 7-5


CARTHAGE — The statistic of ground balls in lacrosse is sometimes overshadowed by gaudy scoring numbers of goals and assists.

This certainly wasn’t the case on Saturday as Homer’s boys lacrosse team won the battle of possession decisively in posting a 7-5 triumph over Carthage in a nonconference meeting at Comet Field in the annual Team 24 ‘Never Stop Fighting’ game.

The Trojans (6-4) collected 53 ground balls, while the Comets were credited with only 31 while being dealt their first loss in 10 games this season.

“That’s the difference in the game,” Carthage coach Kirk Ventiquattro said of Homer’s dominance in scooping up ground balls. “They beat us to every ground ball, they beat us in virtually every 50-50 situation. This one is tough to take.”

Beau Riley scored three goals and Chris Brown totaled two goals and an assist to lead the way for Homer (6-4), which reached the state semifinal round in Class C last season.

The Comets (9-1), who have risen to sixth in the state rankings in Class B, were led by Seth Leonard, who scored two goals and assisted on two others, but their possession game let them down.

“This was a tough loss for us,” Carthage co-captain and junior attackman Bailey Wilkenson said. “They played well on defense and our defense did their part, but we need to step it up on offense and help out our defense a little bit.”

Carthage players wore their special blue uniforms in support of Ventiquattro, who was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer last year. Proceeds from the event will benefit the American Cancer Society.

“It’s a big win,” Riley said. “It’s good to come up here and play in an event like this and then get the win — especially against a good team like Carthage.”

Leonard and Paul Bracy combined to win nine of 16 faceoffs for the Comets, but they struggled to generate any steady offense.

“I felt like our defense played well enough to win, and our offense played well enough to win,” Ventiquattro said. “So the difference was they dominated us between the box lines. They were willing to play big boy lacrosse and we weren’t. And it wasn’t anyone in particular — it was just us as a team.”

In a low-scoring first half, Carthage took its final lead of the day at 3-2 on Leonard’s unassisted goal with 29.4 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

Homer quickly responded with the tying goal as Riley scored unassisted with 14.4 seconds left.

“They really dominated in ground balls in the first half,” Ventiquattro said. “And then we gave up an unacceptable goal with 14 seconds left — we should have been up 3-2 going into halftime. That was a bonehead play on our part.”

After the Comets found themselves trailing in the second half for the first time this season, the Trojans took command by controlling the ball for much of the time the rest of the way and goalie Jonathan Cottrell made nine saves to record the win.

“I think we have two teams here who both can be very good when they do the right things,” Homer coach Tom Cottrell said. “We came out today and executed and did the things we what need to do to be successful against a good team like Carthage. That’s a very good, athletic team over there.”

Brown and Casey Cleary each scored a goal in the third quarter for the Trojans, who held Carthage scoreless during the period.

The Comets drew within 5-4 on Bracy’s long-range goal with 9:32 left in regulation to break a scoreless drought of nearly 15 minutes, but Homer struck for two more goals, including a tally by Riley with 1:42 remaining to complete the scoring.

“Homer played in the state semifinal last year, so they’ve got a lot of those kids left,” said Ventiquattro, whose team reached the Section 3 final in Class B last year. “So they know how to compete in big games and they have four losses, but they’ve lost to some good teams. I think they were desperate for a win and we didn’t match their desperation.”

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