FAIRFIELD — One more road game was nothing for Wilton’s boys lacrosse team. One more deficit was nothing for a team that dug itself a deep hole in the first half of its season.
The 19th seed in Class L will play for a championship on Saturday. Wilton came back Wednesday night to beat Fairfield Prep 7-6 at Rafferty Stadium in the semifinals.
“We’ve been playing with an edge all season. We started off 1-7. No one respected us,” said Wilton standout defender Ryan Schriber, one of several key players who lost time to injuries early in the season.
“No one expected us coming in here as a 19 seed or whatever, no one expected us to beat New Canaan, beat Prep, and now we have another chance to prove our Darien game wasn’t a fluke.”
The Warriors (14-9), ranked sixth in the GameTimeCT poll, will meet fifth-seeded and top-ranked Darien (16-5) in the final Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field — the state’s first great power, Wilton, against the program that has dominated the past two decades.
Wilton knocked off the Blue Wave 4-3 in the FCIAC semifinals, the signature upset in its second-half success.
Reilly Sullivan’s fourth goal put the Warriors up with 3:12 to go Wednesday. The Jesuits had the ball most of the last minute and a half, but Ben Leung disrupted a pass as time ticked down, and Tyler Previte picked up a ground ball and cleared it with seven seconds left.
“Get the ball and run, I mean. This team works so hard, I’ve got to do anything to finish this one for the team. These guys are frickin’ warriors,” Previte said. “Going down 4-0, that’s how it’s been all year, revenge.”
They got revenge on the second-seeded, fourth-ranked Jesuits (17-4), who beat them 10-6 here on April 13.
Fairfield Prep played Wednesday without All-America attackman Mason Reale, who tore his right ACL early in Saturday’s quarterfinal win over Newtown. The Jesuits still took a 4-0 lead early in the second quarter, with the Warriors turning the ball over constantly in the first.
Wilton took a 6-4 lead, and the Jesuits came back to tie it.
“We did what we practiced. Mason being hurt changed a few things,” Jesuits coach Graham Niemi said.
“I thought we played a good lacrosse game. The kids played their heart out. I’m so proud of them for that. I say all the time, ‘Be where your feet are,’ and they stayed that way.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
With a hat tip to the Wilton defense, midfielder Reilly Sullivan scored four goals, including the winner.
“That was a great (Jesuits) defense. We had to work on matchups, and we started to do that in the second quarter,” Sullivan said. “Things fell into place.”
To play games at the premier lacrosse facility around, the CIAC agreed to let Fairfield Prep host its own games in the semifinals. Wilton — you won’t be surprised to learn — noticed. Schriber put air quotes around “neutral site” in his postgame talk.
“Playing at their home turf kind of gave us some extra motivation,” Schriber said.
Both teams were seeking their first trip to a CIAC final since they won championships in 2013: Fairfield Prep in Class L, the Warriors in Class M.
Wilton gets the chance for a 23rd championship: 16 in the 21 years in which the state coaches association ran the tournament, six more since 1995 under CIAC sanction.
The Jesuits settle for their fourth straight SCC championship, and Niemi will have fond memories of this group.
“I know Mason didn’t play today, but Mason, Ethan (Grandolfo), Peter Kavanaugh and Connor Boyle, if they’re not the four best, they’re four of the best players in Connecticut,” Niemi said. “I’m so proud of those kids and all our seniors for all the effort they put in this year.”
“I’ve never been a part of something like that. That was crazy. That was awesome.” —Wilton defender Tyler Previte