When Avon Grove was handed the No. 10 seed in the PIAA District 1 boys' lacrosse tournament, the Red Devils were less than thrilled with their position.
"We came in with a chip on our shoulder," Red Devils captain Tanner Peck said. "We were ready to go, for sure."
Continuing their impressive postseason run, Avon Grove surprised No. 3 Conestoga, the three-time defending state champion, 6-5, in a semifinal on Tuesday at Radnor.
The difference in a tightly played contest was Eric Russo's tally with 1 minute, 4 seconds remaining in the fourth period.
"I think it's just our grit," Red Devils coach Eric Jackson said. "The kids are eager to win for each other."
Thursday, in a 7:30 p.m. district final at Radnor, Avon Grove (18-3), a program in its 13th year, will face No. 5 Garnet Valley, a 7-6 winner of Tuesday's semifinal nightcap against No. 1 Radnor.
"It's been a great experience," Peck said. "It's been a total team effort. We won today because everybody stepped up."
For the Red Devils, who posted four goals in the last 12 minutes, freshman Beau Kush produced a hat trick. Jackson's squad trailed by 3-0 early in the second quarter.
"It was sloppy on both sides," Jackson said. "We kind of ripped our guys at halftime. We told them not to focus on the name on the front of the other team's jersey."
Said Peck, a two-year starter at quarterback in football: "We weren't playing our game at first. I don't know if we were intimidated, or it was the weather. It was pretty hot. Still, there was no excuse for it."
A stellar effort in front of Avon Grove goalie Will Schreiner (10 saves) was led by Anthony Cardile, Brendan McNicholas, Logan Atkinson, and Danny Norris.
"Our defense is really good," said Peck, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior and Penn State recruit. "Will is a champ in goal. He's a beast."
Junior Jake Scott sparked the Pioneers (12-9) with five goals. Senior goaltender Rob Zonino, who is bound for Michigan, made 10 stops.
Avon Grove 0 2 0 4 – 6
Conestoga 2 2 0 1 – 5
Goals: AG-Beau Kush 3, Matt King, Stephen Cyron, Eric Russo; C-Jake Scott 4, Zach Schleicher.
Saves: AG-Will Schreiner 10; C-Rob Zonino 8.