FAIRFIELD – Cheshire hasn’t appeared in a CIAC boys’ lacrosse championship game since in 2010. And against FCIAC runner-up Wilton, it didn’t appear the Rams drought would end.
But the seventh-seeded Rams pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament, stunning the heavily favored sixth-seeded Warriors, 15-14, Wednesday night at Rafferty Stadium on the campus of Fairfield University.
Cheshire will face top-seeded Darien at 3:30 p.m. at McMahon High in Norwalk in Saturday’s championship game. The Blue Wave, the No. 1 team in the country, knocked out fifth-seeded Glastonbury, 15-9, in the first game here Wednesday.
“I told the kids at the beginning of the year they have the ability to play on June 10 (in the championship game),” Cheshire coach Rich Pulisciano said. “A lot of people said our side of the bracket was weak, but we showed them we can play ball.”
Wilton had come off a 12-5 quarterfinal win against a Fairfield Prep team that had handled Cheshire easily in both the regular season and the Southern Connecticut Conference playoffs. But the Rams were a totally different bunch Wednesday night.
“I think we didn’t get the respect we deserved,” said Cheshire’s Tim Hoynes, who scored five goals. “We’re in the state championship now and it means everything in the world.”
Cheshire, in fact, led most of the night, taking 3-0 and 7-4 leads in the first half.
“We played everyone in youth, so we know we can compete with them,” Hoynes said. “That built our confidence a lot and I think it shocked them a lot.”
The Rams led at halftime, 10-7, and scored the opening goal of the second half just 1:21 into it thanks to John Raba to take the largest lead of the night.
But it was far from over. Wilton took control of the faceoffs and possession and went on a five-goal run with Joe Scarfi putting the Warriors ahead, 12-11, with 5:36 to play in the third quarter.
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“We weren’t playing the game that we should, but they fought back and scraped,” Wilton coach John Wiseman said. “We had a lot of momentum and we thought we’d turn the tide.”
However, Ryan Lindsey put Cheshire ahead for good, 13-12, with 2:51 to play in the third.
After Hoynes scored with just 30 seconds left in the period the Rams worked the clock for a lot of the fourth quarter. Raba gave them a three-goal cushion with 10:15 remaining on a goal from right in front. Wilton, however, closed it to 15-14 with 4:28 to go on a goal by Brian Calabrese.
The Warriors had a couple chances in the last two minutes to tie things, but Brown made one great save to add to the other three shots he stopped in the quarter and the Warriors turned the ball over twice. Meanwhile, when Cheshire had possession, the Rams tried to run the clock out. Wilton had a chance in the final 22 seconds, but didn’t get a shot off.
“Of course we’re disappointed,” Wiseman said.
But it’s on to Saturday for Cheshire and no doubt another huge mountain to climb in order to end its state title drought.
“We have one more to go and we’ll do the best we can,” Pulisciano said. “They (Darien) are No. 1 in the state and No. 1 in the country, but our kids are chomping at the bit to play Saturday.”