HERSHEY, Pa. - With his team trailing by three goals early in the first quarter, Conestoga coach Brian Samson signaled for a timeout to settle his players as the St. Joseph's Prep offense moved at the roaring pace of the roller coasters that peered over the far grandstand.
Samson told his players to relax and reminded them that they had been in three-goal holes before. Entering the game, the 11th-year head coach said he told his players that not everything would come easily in the final, and this situation was one of them.
The Pioneers quickly grasped control of the momentum. They scored six straight goals to end the first half on their way to a 13-4 victory and their second straight PIAA state boys' lacrosse title.
"We were a little shocked," Conestoga's Brad Lord said of the early deficit. "He [Samson] told us to pretty much wake up and push the ball a little more."
The junior sparkplug scored three goals in the first half. On his first goal, the athletic Lord beat his defender down the middle as his teammates were able to draw the lane open.
The Prep's quick three goals came off the sticks of Jeff Heath, Blaine Fleming, and Tim O'Rourke, the third prompting the timeout with 8 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. Conestoga then scored 13 straight goals before the Hawks connected with 4:21 left in the game.
Conestoga dominated the state tournament, finishing with a goal differential of 11.5 per game. Although they finish as PIAA champions, the Pioneers will be second in the overall state rankings to the nation's top team, Haverford School, a non-PIAA team that dealt Conestoga its lone loss.
Lord said that he would like to get another shot at the Fords, but that he has put the loss behind him.
In just the third year of the PIAA holding a boys' lacrosse championship, Conestoga reached the final for the third time, its lone defeat coming in 2009 against La Salle.
Samson said it was special to get back to the title game and credited the ability of his players to handle the pressure that came with defending last season's championship.
"This is the culmination of three months of hard work," Samson said. "These guys never really surprise me because they play so hard. I couldn't be more proud of them."
For the second straight game, the Pioneers pulled off a far-reaching, wonder goal, as Billy Flatley scored on a shot launched from around midfield as the third quarter expired.
The senior midfielder said it was by far the longest goal of his career. The Hawks had attempted to clear the ball out of their own zone before defenseman Carson Scott found Flatley.
"I saw the clock winding down and honestly just turned and shot," Flatley said. "I was as surprised as anyone."
Conestoga 4 2 4 3 – 13
St. Joseph's Prep 3 0 0 1 – 4
Goals: C-Tyler Brooke 3, Kevin Rudd 3, Brad Lord 3, Tanner Scott, Connor Frisina, Billy Flatley, Robbie Rose; SJP-Jeff Heath, Blaine Fleming, Tim O'Rourke, Tim Browne.
Saves: C-John Lopes 5, Robbie Zonino 5, Andrew Anido 1; SJP-A.J. Simon 5, Liam Correia 4.