TRUMBULL — This was a benchmark kind of a game for St. Paul’s boys lacrosse team, a young, high-scoring program matching up against defending Class S champion St. Joseph. And for three quarters, the Falcons were right there with them.
The Cadets cut out some of their early turnovers and pulled away for a 13-7 win Saturday afternoon at Dalling Field in a game that was tied at 6 late in the third quarter.
“Our offense can play, there’s no doubt about it,” St. Paul coach Christopher Kennedy said. “What we struggle with against the best teams — that’s why we scheduled this game — is clearing the ball and maintaining possession against great defenders.”
That’s the Cadets’ strength, with seniors Bryan Viglione and Phil Pasmeg along with sophomore Jack Fearnley on defense. St. Joseph coach Brendan Talbot liked the matchup for his team because St. Paul’s offense runs through three standout attackmen, Brycen Kennedy, Tucker Raymond and Kevin Ashworth.
Toss in the usual good day from goalie Kyle Burbank (10 saves), and the Cadets contained the Falcons enough Saturday to improve to 5-4 after losses the past week to No. 5 New Canaan and No. 1 Darien.
“All practice we focused on working on the details, the small things. I think we did a good job of that,” said Viglione, a senior co-captain. “We played good team defense.”
St. Paul (5-2) came in with 101 goals in six games. The Falcons had lost a 16-15 game to East Catholic and had come from behind to beat Bacon Academy 15-13 in their two highest-profile games.
The program, which began in 2013, reached its first CIAC Class S quarterfinal last year, but it lost 11-1 there to St. Joseph.
“When we played them in the playoffs last year, we couldn’t hang in the game, not because our offense and defense weren’t talented enough. We couldn’t clear the ball,” Christopher Kennedy said.
“We did much better today than we did in the playoff game last year, but it’s still something that we’ve got to get better at before June.”
The young Cadets offense struggled to hang onto the ball for stretches of the first half, with some turnovers forced by the St. Paul defense, some unforced.
Nick Macisco won them some key faceoffs, and after the Falcons drew even at 5 and then again at 6, St. Joseph scored the next five goals.
“We wanted to kind of make sure our offense felt challenged, that (the Falcons’) offense was getting a lot of attention, so like, ‘hey, we’re good, too,'” Talbot said.
“I think there were a lot of nerves in the beginning, a lot of turnovers between the boxes. I told the guys at halftime, the dam’s about to break. We’ve got to keep shooting and take care of the ball.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Preston Kral ran out most of a one-minute penalty to preserve St. Joseph’s 3-2 lead in the second quarter, then scored four goals and an assist.
THE FULL 48
Talbot said the Cadets’ biggest strides from Day 1 this year are in putting together a complete game.
“Earlier in the year, with no seniors on offense, it took a while for our offense to get going,” Talbot said. “Then we had a couple of games where the defense was off. It wasn’t until we beat Greenwich 12-6 (April 13) where we kind of played a full 48 minutes, the offense did its job, the defense, faceoffs.
“You play Darien and New Canaan,” he added, “they kind of take it to you.”
SERVES YOU RIGHT
A Cadets goal inadvertently went on the scoreboard for St. Paul, drawing chirps from the crowd, and even as the scorekeeper tried to fix it came repeated cries of “it’s 10-6!”
In trying to reset the board, six goals went up for St. Paul, giving the Falcons a “13-10 lead.” Then another six: “19-10.” One can only imagine the final score had the chirps continued.
“That Pasmeg kid is as good as anyone anywhere. Our goal, like everyone who’s legit, is to get to a state championship. We know, to do that, we’ve got to play better against great defenses, which they are.” —St. Paul coach Christopher Kennedy