Martha’s Vineyard and Bishop Feehan renewed their old Eastern Athletic Conference boys lacrosse rivalry in a thrilling MIAA Division 2 South Sectional first round game on a blustery, unseasonably cool Tuesday afternoon at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
Tenth-seeded Feehan dominated early and built a big lead but the No. 7 Vineyarders summoned a deep reserve of heart and soul, roared back and made the Shamrocks sweat out a 13-11 victory that had both sets of fans buzzing until the final seconds.
“We just kept fighting,” Vineyard Coach Chris Greene said. “Yesterday, we had a really strange practice and at the end of it, I kind of just let the guys know where I was at about their enthusiasm and what we needed to do to be successful. They came back today and did that. We got down early and, probably, it was a little bit much for us to come back from but I’m really proud of this team.”
From a Vineyard perspective, what became a classic playoff game in the last 33 minutes was anything but in the first 15. With nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, the turnover-prone home team was on the short end of a 10-1 score against the Shamrocks, with Brendan Morris’ goal from Eli Gundersen 3:51 into the first period, the only bright spot in the game.
With the game rapidly getting away from them, the Vineyarders reached down deep and started a turnaround that saw them outscore the Shamrocks, 10-3, the rest of the way.
Eamon Sayles (from Sam Wallace), Zander Amaral and Ivan Shepherd scored in a 1:19 span, with Dylan Williams scoring for Feehan in between. Amaral (from Aiden Marek) and Wallace added another pair of goals one minute apart for the Vineyarders and a game that had gone horribly wrong was turning into quite a contest by halftime.
The third period was a 1-1 stalemate, physical to the max, with quality scoring opportunities scarce. Vineyarder Colby Zarba grabbed the one, true highlight, by shovelling in a nifty backhander at close range with 56.5 seconds left on the clock.
Down 12-7 at the start of the final period, the Vineyarders saved their best lacrosse for last and goalie Max Smith, who made 20 saves in an unforgettable day between the pipes, was never better. Ivan Shepherd scored 51 seconds into the quarter. Feehan responded by milking the clock with their skillful passing game and scored a beautiful final goal with 7:16 left to play. Undeterred, the Vineyarders checked and harassed the Shamrocks with everything they had, forced a slew of loose balls and chipped the Feehan lead down to two goals. Sam Wallace scored with 4:28 remaining, Eli Gundersen set up Aiden Marek with a perfect feed for another goal with 3:27 left and Zander Amaral fired the ball into the twine from 10-yards out, assisted by Wallace, with 2:01 on the clock. The hosts attacked the Shamrock goal until the final horn but they simply ran out of time and a Vineyard season with 15 wins and only four defeats came to an end.
“We have 11 or 12 seniors graduating this year but so many of my kids are coming back,” Coach Greene said. “We had big games out of all the people who needed to have big games. Senior Brendan Morris did yeoman’s work on the faceoffs. It’s exhausting and he towed the line until the end and made some big plays for us, had an early goal for us. A senior like Eamon Sayles got a big goal for us, a gravy goal for us. Those were the moments that picked the team up. And my goalie Max Smith, a senior, that was an out of body experience. His second half was the stuff of legends as far as I’m concerned and I’ve seen a lot of good lacrosse in my day.
“That’s what I’ve been waiting for all year. I mean, we’ve had a good year and things have been going well but that was what I’ve been waiting for and I’m hoping that the guys that return next year take this as an understanding that we can compete with anybody.”