The Port Jefferson and Center Moriches boys lacrosse teams are no stranger to each other.
Last year they battled in the Suffolk Class D final last season to decide the county champion, with Port Jefferson coming out on top by a goal. Both regular season meetings last year and this year were won by Center Moriches, so everyone was expecting a highly-contested battle for this year’s county championship.
Battle they did on Friday as No. 1 seed and host Port Jefferson defeated No. 2 Center Moriches, 11-8, in the final.
“That’s a team that comes out and they battle,” Port Jefferson coach Taylor Forstell said about Center Moriches. “They keep on coming out onto this field and putting up very strong efforts, so hats off to Center Moriches. We’ll continue this rivalry hopefully.”
Stephen Bayer led Port Jefferson ( 8-9) with five goals and Kyle Scandale added three goals and the biggest assist of the game to Bayer to stop Center Moriches momentum and close the game out for the top seed.
Aidan Knoetgen kept Center Moriches (5-12) in the game with his five goals and Richie Spivak added a goal and three assists.
Port Jefferson came out of the gate looking determined to repeat as champions but Knoetgen got on the board first for Center Moriches to give them an early (and only) lead.
Port Jefferson scored the next eight goals from the first quarter towards the middle of the third quarter to seize complete control of the game.
“We set up a 1-3-2 and we just went to work” Scandale said. “It ended up being beautiful.”
Center Moriches would not go away. In the third period they managed to rattle off four straight goals off the sticks of Knoetgen (two goals), Spivak and Jack Kleinman to head to the final quarter trailing only 8-5.
Center Moriches continued to work their offense and with less than four minutes to go in the game they only trailed 9-8. Port Jefferson, reeling from the visiting teams attack, had to call a timeout to gather themselves.
“We just had to settle down and get back in our zone,” Bayer said. “We took a timeout, planned things out and worked right through it.”
From there, Scandale hooked up with Bayer to score twice and put further distance between the two teams with less than three minutes remaining.
“I just saw the slide come from the crease and he was wide open in the crease so I hit him,” Scandale said of his clutch assist.
“It was a nice feed from Kyle, I took the opportunity and got it in,” Bayer said.
Port Jefferson will now have to wait until June 4th to play for the Long Island championship.
By Justin Joseph
Newsday | Newsday.com