MANCHESTER, NH — The schedule might have said Game 5, but for all intents and purposes, the Derryfield boys’ lacrosse season began Friday evening at home against St. Thomas Aquinas.
The Cougars used this early-season battle of unbeatens to send a message to the rest of Division II, in the form of a 12-6 beatdown of the visiting Saints.
Alex Murray had four goals and scooped five ground balls to lead Derryfield (5-0).Chili Chabot added three goals and an assist.
After dismantling their first four opponents by a combined score of 74-12, the Cougars were facing their first real challenge of the season in St. Thomas Aquinas. Like Derryfield, STA is a team that sees itself as a legitimate D-II state title contender.
“It was a big game, two undefeated teams coming in, two teams that I think a lot of people think have the potential to make the Final Four, of even the final,” said Derryfield Coach Chris Hettler. “But yeah, we built this up as the first real test, of a few, coming down the road for us.”
Derryfield held a considerable advantage in time of possession, thanks partly to patient, crisp ball movement and partly due to the dominance of faceoff specialist Logan Purvis.
The Cougars led nearly wire-to-wire. Their only hiccup came early in the second quarter. Trailing 3-1, the Saints rallied to tie the game on goals by Jackson Estes and Finely Detolla.
A timeout by Hettler helped dull the STA momentum, and Derryfield came out from it with renewed focus. The Cougars upped the tempo and began to assert themselves physically to take control of the game. They re-took the lead when RJ Proulx made a brilliant pass to set up Murray for a goal with 4:03 to play in the half.
Less than a minute later, Proulx scored off a feed from Quinn Silvio (four assists), giving Derryfield a 5-3 lead heading into intermission.
“I was proud of the fact that they faced a little adversity today that they hadn’t seen in the first four games,” said Hettler. “They were able to collectively calm themselves down, we made some stops when we had to, our goalie made some saves when we had to and offensively we had some guys who found the back of the net.”
Derryfield blew the game open in the third quarter, scoring three goals, before St. Thomas Aquinas had a possession in the second half.
Just 16 seconds into the half, Murray scored off a feed from Silvio. Purvis won the ensuing faceoff, eventually leading to a goal by Chabot. Again, Purvis won the faceoff, leading to a goal by Ethan Flanagan, pushing the Cougars’ lead to 8-3.
“Logan battled hard all game. He did a good job, he tied him up and we were able to get some extra possessions,” said Hettler.
After more than three minutes of playing nothing but defense, STA gained its first possession of the half with 8:51 to play in the third quarter and tried to climb back into the game. A pair of goals from Detolla (four goals) cut the Derryfield lead to 8-5 and appeared to give STA some momentum heading into the fourth.
However, with the final seconds of the third quarter ticking down, Chabot hauled in a 30-yard pass from John Kramer, spun and fired the ball past STA goalie Eli Alliare, giving the Cougars a four-goal lead and taking the wind out of the Saints’ sails.
Detolla’s fourth goal of the game pulled STA within 9-6 early in the fourth quarter. But Derryfield pulled away on goals from Tate Flint, Brady Doldo and Murray to close out the romp.
Derryfield has upcoming games against Kingswood (1-3) and Spaulding (0-5), which should mean the Cougars remain unbeaten before hosting an inter-state showdown with Massachusetts power Westwood, on April 29.