When the St. Paul's boys lacrosse team looked back on what went wrong in its disappointing 3-15 season last year, an early overtime loss to Hereford was one of the worst memories.
So when the Crusaders found themselves down only two goals to the visiting Bulls after clearly being outplayed in the first half Friday, they once again faced an early crossroads. This time, St. Paul's left the field satisfied.
The No. 6 Crusaders dominated No. 8 Hereford in the second half, scoring six unanswered goals after the break for an 8-4 win.
Henry Riehl, Carter Flaig and Mikey Wynne each scored two goals for St. Paul's (5-0), and Alex McGovern scored once and added three assists to lead the offense. On defense, seniors Travis Wood, Mike Mayer and A.J. Fradkin blanketed the Bulls (0-1) in the second half.
"We've had some early success this season and haven't been used to being down at the half, so coach [Rick Brocato] just told us to dig deep and really come out and prove ourselves," said Riehl, who put St. Paul's ahead when he scored late in the third quarter. "So we came out in the second half really pumped up and played some of our best lacrosse working together."
Riehl said the Crusaders did a better job playing within the offensive system, moving off the ball and working together.
After Connor Sheehan opened the third quarter with a goal to cut the Bulls' lead to 4-3 with 7:17 left, Wynne tied the game off a feed from McGovern less than two minutes later. The Crusaders took the lead for good when B.J. Mattheiss found Riehl for a precise finish from the left side.
Flaig, Riehl and Wynne added goals in the fourth quarter and the defense prevented the Bulls from making a comeback attempt. In last year's 11-10 loss to Hereford, the Crusaders relinquished a five-goal lead.
"I think we really got out of our offense, which was uncharacteristic for us [after the first four wins this season], so we kind of reverted back to doing some things that we're not very good at doing," Brocato said. "I think in the second half, we had more people on the same page and it showed. We got some easy goals, and then we were able to ice the game on defense."
For Hereford, which has won five straight Class 3A-2A state titles and finished 19-1 last season, it was a season-opening game that had typical positives and negatives.
The Bulls dominated stretches of the first half after falling behind, 2-0. They won more faceoffs and ground balls and scored four straight goals, including two from Joe Seider. But the Crusaders made the needed adjustments at the break and executed to take control of the game in the second half.
"You never know what you're going to get the first game of the year," Hereford coach Brian King said. "That's our first time out, and we had a good effort. We didn't execute on the offensive side and that's a good team over there. … Now we have something where we can go back, work on things and come back dangerous."
6 St. Paul's 8, 8 Hereford 4
Goals: H – Seider 2, Ashwood, Bauer; SP – Wynne 2, Flaig 2, Riehl 2, Sheehan, McGovern.
Assists: H – Ashwood, Adams; SP – McGovern 3, Mattheiss 2.
Saves: H – Cunningham 6, Turnbaugh 3; SP –Pearl 8, Barretto 4.
Half: H, 4-2