by MIKE KROLL
On Saturday May 15, Rockford’s boy’s lacrosse team beat Okemos 11-10 in a double-overtime thriller at Okemos High School. The game was a testament to perseverance, conditioning and plain old hard work. As senior captain Cooper Sturr said after the game, “We just worked harder at the end, and our conditioning paid off.”
Trailing 7-0 late in the second quarter, the Rams finally got on the board with 3:22 left in the half on a goal from Mitch Newton, who scored after receiving a long clearing pass from defenseman Charlie Vanderzee. The halftime score was Okemos 7, Rockford 1.
Coach Murray’s team picked up the pace in the third quarter, with goals scored by Kevin Badersnider, Blake McDonald and Jon Hazy. The Chieftains also scored twice to take a 9-4 lead going into the fourth quarter. In the final quarter, Rockford worked harder than Okemos by winning face-offs and maintaining possession. Badersnider won several key face-offs, which seemed to ignite the Rams’ offense.
Matt Duvel started the fourth quarter scoring at the 6:54 mark, and was soon followed by two goals from Adam Kroll, and two goals from Kento Nakano. Goalie Connor Flynn and the Rams’ defense elevated their play in the final quarter as well, holding Okemos to just one fourth-quarter goal. With the Rams down 10-9 after Kroll’s goal at the 1:55 mark, Badersnider won another face-off, allowing Rockford to keep possession and momentum. With 10 seconds left in the game, Newton scored after a quick pass from McDonald, sending the Rockford fans into a frenzy and the game into overtime.
During the first overtime period, both teams had shots on goal, but there was no scoring. Flynn again came up big when it mattered most, and the game moved into a second overtime period. The suspense and pressure could be felt throughout Okemos Stadium, as the next goal would give a sudden-death win to whichever team scored. At the 2:15 mark in the second overtime, Kroll spun away from an Okemos long-stick, found a shooting lane, and fired a hard, low shot that skipped past the Chieftain goalie for the game-winning goal. The final score was Rockford 11, Okemos 10. The exciting victory made the team’s bus ride back to Rockford and prom night that much sweeter.
Rockford played Forest Hills Eastern/Northern (FHEN) in the opening game of the OK Tier 1 conference tournament on Tuesday evening, May 18. The Rams started strong, leading 3-0 after the first quarter on a goal by junior middie Kroll and two from sophomore attack man Newton, but the overall talent of the FHEN squad took over and dominated the Rams in a 15-5 victory for the Hawks.
The FHEN team is ranked third overall in the state of Michigan, behind Birmingham Brother Rice and Detroit Catholic Central, and were led by junior attack man Alex VanSlyke, who scored six goals.
In the third-place game of the OK Tier 1 conference tournament, Rockford visited East Grand Rapids (EGR) on Thursday night, May 20, and defeated the Pioneers by a score of 14-8.
This time the Rams started strong and stayed strong through all four quarters. Goalie Elliot Vickers was outstanding, recording 18 saves against a potent EGR offense. He was helped by the strong defensive play of Sturr, Josh Henry, Austin Mills, Brandon Emmons, Zach King and Jordon Shiparski. Key faceoffs were won by both Badersnider and Hazy, especially in the fourth quarter. The Rams offense was led by attack men Newton and Nakano, who scored three goals each, as well as middie Kroll, who scored twice with three assists. Also scoring for the Rams were seniors Danny Pouba and Henry, along with junior Erik Datema, freshman McDonald and sophomore Spencer Sims.
The Rams will next play in the state tournament, with an opening game against OK Tier 1 conference rival West Ottawa.