By Hayden Bird
CAMBRIDGE, MA – Despite the rain, the weight of unending expectation and implacable opposition from the Needham Rockets, the Duxbury Dragons claimed their ninth boy’s lacrosse state title since 2002 by a 10-8 final score.
Coming into the game, Needham and Duxbury had taken very different paths to reach the state championship. Duxbury (23-2) had cruised in the tournament, never winning a game by less than 10 goals.
Needham (16-6) scrapped every step of the way, including a tight 9-8 win in the quarterfinals over Masconomet.
So the early forecasts for the game skewed heavily in Duxbury’s favor. And at the outset, it seemed that Duxbury would pick up where they had left off against Lincoln-Sudbury, (where they won 18-6).
Charging to a 3-0 lead, the run included two goals from Sam Sweet and one from Jon Gomer.
Gomer, who scored in the semifinals, has found a knack for big-game goals.
“When Jon scores, he does it with style,” said Duxbury coach Chris Sweet.
Needham, bereft of any notion that Duxbury might have an off-night, began to claw their way back in the second quarter.
Goals from Mikey Panepinto and Nico Panepinto brought Needham back into the game by halftime, but Duxbury still led, 6-3.
And though the underdog Rockets trailed, they were spurred on by calming words from their coach Dave Wainwright.
“We just told them to stay calm and relax,” Wainright said of his team’s halftime message.
Yet, the third quarter began badly for Needham, who conceded four goals while only scoring one themselves by Nico Panepinto. Duxbury had tacked on additional goals from Will Siefert, Seamus Connelly, Chris Williams and another from Sweet, who completed his hat trick.
And Henry Narlee, whose face-off dominance has reined supreme in Massachusetts all season, keyed the Duxbury second half run.
“He’s been our unsung hero all season,” Sweet earnestly said of his midfielder following the game.
With the game at 10-4 in favor of Duxbury, it appeared the contest was essentially over.
Yet, Needham had other thoughts. Slowly, but surely, they began finding the net. Four goals in five minutes to begin the fourth quarter made it 10-8 almost out of nowhere.
Duxbury goalie Henry Boungorio could have panicked, having not faced this kind of opposition in the whole playoff run. Still, he kept his nerve.
“I didn’t panic,” said Buongurio. “I know I have a great defense in front of me.”
And Chris Williams, Duxbury’s leader in ground balls, came up with arguably the biggest one of his life when Needham was pressuring late. This all, but iced, yet another state title.
“He’s the scrappiest player we have,” Sweet declared happily afterward. “He’s been that way ever since he was in third grade and he came up big.”
In the end, despite a heroic rally from Needham, the vaunted Duxbury Dragons claimed yet another trophy, causing an eruption of cheers from their fans and players as the final whistle sounded.