Not even Mother Nature could slow down the Homer Central boys’ varsity lacrosse team Tuesday night.
The top-seeded Trojans built a 10-1 lead as the rain intensified, sat out a one hour and 35 minute delay for thunder and lightning with 4:16 left in the first half and returned to George Butts Field to score 10 more goals in a 19-2 rout of eighth seed Indian River (12-5 overall) in Section 3 Class C quarterfinal action.
Homer improves to 16-1 on the season and will face fourth seed Carthage in the semifinals Friday at Liverpool beginning at 7 p.m. The Comets (11-6) were 12-10 winners over fifth seed New Hartford. The 5 p.m. semifinal game will feature second seed Jamesville-DeWitt squaring off against third seed Westhill. The Red Rams blasted 10th seed V-VS 25-1 and the Warriors downed sixth seed Cortland 17-2 (see related story).
Homer is ranked fifth in the latest New York State Class C poll. J-D (15-3) is ranked seventh and Westhill (12-5) 11th. New Hartford was ranked 15th.
A big key to Homer’s success Tuesday night started in the faceoff X, where junior John Denkenberger won 18 of his 20 battles. Freshman Andrew Van Patten was a perfect 3-for-3 in his second half face-off match-ups.
“The offense keeps rolling,” Denkenberger said. “We keep scoring and we do what we have to do. My wings do a good job of getting the ball if I can’t get it myself. It’s a team effort because we work as a unit. We stay humble and get the job done.”
Denkenberger is the latest in a successful line of face-off specialists for the Trojans.
“In my experience, nothing is given to you,” Denkenberger said. “I worked hard in the off-season watching the older guys face off, went to clinics and worked with Andrew Van Patten. We just keep working. There’s always something new to learn.”
“John is a bit of an unsung hero,” Homer coach Tom Cottrell said. “It was a bit of a question mark coming into the year, but John has been a fantastic addition to our face-off team. He battles all the time. He was focused tonight and aggressive right from the start. When you have consistency like that, you have success and it showed on the scoreboard.”
With Denkenberger winning the face-offs, the Trojans’ offense applied the pressure. Vinny Basile got the scoring started 35 seconds into the game and the Yacavone brothers, Dylan and Dante, had a part in each of the six first-quarter goals.
The game paused weather-related delay and Homer scored four more goals when play resumed for a 10-1 halftime lead. The Trojans were up 17-1 after three quarters as the second half was played entirely with running time.
Sophomore Dylan Yacavone had seven goals and three assists while Dante, a senior, netted four goals to go with five assists. Basile added four goals and two assists as the attack unit accounted for 15 of the 19 goals and 10 of the 12 assists on the night.
“We got 15 goals from our attack tonight and 10 assists, that’s fantastic production,” Cottrell said. “Those three guys are a handful. I have no doubt that they are going to be ready game in and game out. They shared the ball extremely well tonight.”
Tucker O’Donnell scored two goals for Homer. Lars Roos and Draven Mulvaney each scored one goal while Justin Wainwright handed out two assists. It was Mulvaney’s first varsity goal and point.
Nathaniel Smith made 14 saves in the Warriors’ goal.
Homer enjoyed a 46-9 shot advantage and 49-14 edge in ground balls. When the defense was tested, Zach Barber, Dominick Natale, Zach Mallory, Wainwright and goalkeeper Michael Turck were up to the task. Those five, plus all the other players who came off the bench, only gave up a goal to Kadden Brown with 7:36 left in the first half and a late goal to Rosato with four minutes to play. Turck had five saves and the rest of the team forced turnovers nearly every Indian River trip into scoring position. Lucas Sweeten played the final five minutes in the Homer goal.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Barber said of the defensive unit. “We’ve grown up together so we have a good cohesiveness. Justin, Dom and me have been on varsity and played together for three years now. Zach (Mallory) has really done a good job with us. Noah Goodard and the other short stick D middies have done well. It all really works together.”
“That’s not the type of offense we are use to seeing or going to see,” Cottrell said. “The players stayed focused on the defensive end despite some long periods of time with no action. Usually there could be a loose ball that leads to a goal or a bad clearing pass, but the guys did a good job limiting Indian River to one goal in each half. When you play like we did tonight, you win a lot of ball games.”
Homer posted a 9-6 win at Carthage April 27, but there is much more on the line in this Friday night match-up.
“Today was the start of season two,” Barber said. “This is just a start to achieving some of our goals. We have unfinished goals from previous years, so we are looking forwardto completing them this year.”
“Carthage will be a great test for us,” Cottrell said. “We found a way to beat them the first time this year. We didn’t play our best lacrosse that day. Carthage scrimmaged West Genesee this weekend and looked good. That team is vastly improved from when we saw them before and with Coach (Kirk) Ventiquattro retiring at the end of the season they have an added incentive to keep going. Right now, they are in our way to where we want to go and I’m sure our kids will show up and be ready to go Friday night.”