If you’re going to win an ancient rivalry, sometimes you need an old trick to get it done.
Friday, Norfolk Academy’s boys lacrosse team went back to the Bulldogs’ calling card, a stifling zone defense, in an effort to try and curtail Prep League rival St. Anne’s-Belfield’s electric offense.
“I thought the over/under on this one was probably about 30,” said Norfolk Academy coach Tom Duquette. “I thought it might take 20 to win tonight, they are that explosive. We zoned up again, we’ve been playing a lot of man-to-man and we decided to play zone tonight just to see if we might be able to slow them down a little bit.”
That zone did just enough in the VISAA Division I semifinals at Randolph Macon Academy to push regular season Prep League champion Norfolk Academy past STAB 12-11 and get the Bulldogs into the state title game where they’ll face St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes Saturday.
“Obviously they’re an incredibly tough team, well-coached,” said STAB coach Bo Perriello. “I felt like we gave ourselves a chance down the stretch but it just wasn’t our day.”
Early in the fourth quarter, it didn’t appear that zone had done enough as STAB took a 10-9 lead on one of Joe Robertson’s six goals and appeared ready to pull away. But an unforced turnover on a man-up situation swung control back to Norfolk Academy, who reeled off three straight goals in less than two minutes from the 6:06 mark in the fourth to the 4:18 mark.
STAB refused to go away, with Robertson trying to will the Saints to a win, scoring with 3:58 left to pull the Saints within one. Robertson didn’t celebrate after his sixth goal, instead immediately pointing to and then marching toward his spot on the wing for the ensuing faceoff.
Norfolk Academy won control and managed to melt the clock down before STAB ran down a shot at the endline to regain possession with just one minute to play. Robertson got another chance on the doorstep just to the right of the cage with around 10 seconds left. Norfolk Academy keeper Antonio Arcona, who handled the second half duties after David Pyle started the game, made a huge point-blank save to preserve the Bulldogs’ lead.
“Getting Joe in front of the goal late, he willed himself to get there,” Perriello said. “I wouldn’t want it in anyone else’s stick at that point.”
Norfolk Academy drew a free clear on an infraction in the melee after the save and melted the rest of the clock to set off its celebration.
“It means a lot to the program, I’ve been hearing for the last 12 hours or so from the guys who have played in this (rivalry) for the last 36 years and they understood what kind of game this is,” Duquette said. “It’s a huge rivalry.”
Chase Yager finished with four goals for Norfolk Academy, including what became the game-winner that extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 12-10 with 4:18 to play. Christian Randolph scored twice and dished out two assists and Jack Henry-Smith finished with a hat trick, with all three coming in the second half. Finn Cochrane’s fastbreak goal off the faceoff put the Bulldogs up 11-10 while Ben Locke and Colin Looney chipped in a goal each. Taylor Acra had an assist.
Robertson’s six goals and an assist led STAB while Jack Schultz scored four goals and notched an assist. Connor Shellenberger had a goal and Emmett Barger finished with an assist.
STAB’s season actually isn’t over as the Saints will compete in a national high school tournament over Memorial Day weekend at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The Bulldogs will go after the program’s 10th VISAA title Saturday against defending champion St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes.