Centennial boys lacrosse coach Nick Kellinger gathered his players following Friday’s matchup against visiting Mt. Hebron and delivered an impassioned speech that embodied just how important their effort was.
“The mark of a good team is when a team finds a way to win when they’re not at their best,” said Kellinger, whose Eagles took down the visiting Vikings, 7-4, to ensure a favorable seed in Section 1 of the 2A-3A South region. “I told our guys coming into this game that we have everything to play for. It was up to us to go out there between the lines and take it.”
One player that heard his coach’s message was Dean Fochios – a junior who hadn’t seen much playing time until an injury in late April provided the opportunity with Centennial (9-2, 9-4).
In the regular season finale, Fochios notched three goals, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
“The thing is, we played as a team – as a family,” he said. “We played the lacrosse that we know how to play.”
The first-year varsity player broke the game’s 3-3 tie with 3:04 left on the clock, when defender Chase Conley careened through a scrum of Vikings, scooped up a ground ball and made his way downfield in transition. After a few quick passes through the offense, Andrew Gavlin found Fochios for the score.
Three more Eagle goals in the quarter put the game out of reach for the Vikings.
Kellinger said his team knew the implications of the always-competitive showdown.
“When we play Hebron, we throw the record out,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a battle, because it always is.”
Through the first two quarters, the Eagles maintained much of the momentum. Goals from John Kolp and Gavlin – two seniors playing in their final regular season game at home – helped build the early advantage. Goalie Dan Pomeranz was solid between the pipes as well, notching six saves in the first 24 minutes alone.
“We were timid offensively,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy said of his team’s early play. “We weren’t attacking the ball in the first half. It would have been big for us to get a goal or two early for our confidence, especially for our young guys.”
By the third quarter, the Vikings (7-4, 8-6) finally got on the board when Zach Stevens took a pass from Shane Brookhart and scored.
Nearly seven minutes later, Shane and his brother, Bryce, each notched goals of their own to give Mt. Hebron its only lead of the game.
His team trailing for the first time, Gavlin made sure it was short-lived. His goal less than 30 seconds later knotted things up once again.
“Sometimes the moment is so big, that the adrenaline is rushing and you have a hard time being patient,” Kellinger said. “At the end of the day, I know how bad we wanted it, and that’s what it takes. You have to want it, and we did.”
Fochios scored once more after his team finally took the lead. Gavlin and Kolp added scores as well. A few much-needed shots didn’t land for the Vikings, who put together a comeback attempt that was limited to Stevens’ second goal of the night with 34 seconds to go.
Though seeding has yet to take place, there is a possibility of the Eagles meeting Mt. Hebron again in the playoffs.
“We know that right now, they are thinking about their next chance to avenge this loss,” he said. “We beat them at their place on senior night to end the regular season last year, and they came here for the playoffs. Both games were a fight to the end, and I’m sure the next one would be too. We’re ready for it.”
Centennial 7, Mt. Hebron 4
Goals: C – Dean Fachios (3), John Kolp (2), Andrew Gavlin (2); MH – Zach Stevens (2), Shane Brookhart, Bryce Brookhart.