Conestoga Downs SJ Prep for Boys' PIAA Crown

By Chris Goldberg,

HERSHEY The defending champion hit the challenger with a staggering barrage of connections today at HersheyPark Stadium.

Conestoga reeled off 13 straight goals to rally from an early 3-0 deficit and claimed a 13-4 victory over St. Joseph's Prep, giving the Pioneers their second straight Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) boys' lacrosse championship.

The Pioneers, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation to fellow PA state power Haverford School in two national polls, finish at 25-1. They are 49-3 in the past two years and 73-5 over the past three seasons. They have reached the PIAA title game all three years it's been played.

"We started off slow, but we know what type of team we are and we knew we could come back," said Conestoga senior midfielder Billy Flatley. "St. Joseph's Prep is a great team and we had one of our best games of the year.

"It's unreal winning back-to-back state championships. It's a great feeling. When you are surrounded by all these great players and great coaches, your aim every day is focusing on nothing but winning a state championship."

St. Joseph's Prep (19-5), the District 12 champion making its first PIAA title-game appearance, came out strong with three goals in a span of 2:29. First it was Jeff Heath (10:46 to play), then Blaine Fleming (9:04) and then Tim O'Rourke (8:17).

The Pioneers called time out to regroup, but were hit with a 3-minute unreleasable stick penalty.

But that may have awoken them.

Shortly after play began, junior Connor Frisina scored on the man-down situation to make it 3-1. That goal appeared to shift the momentum.

Bradlee Lord (three goals) then made it 3-2 and Robbie Rose tied it before Lord scored just before the end of the period.

"I told them, 'We've been here before,'" said Conestoga coach Brian Samson of the key timeout. "We made some defensive adjustments as well. They were beating us to the punch and we talked about groundball effort and grit. We needed to start making some plays."

"Then they threw the stick penalty for a 3-minute unreleasable. We got a man-down goal and getting that one goal was huge for us. I think they took a deep breath and got the butterflies out and banded together."

"I couldn't be happier," added senior midfielder Tanner Scott. "We were going on all cylinders after that timeout. We just hustled after every groundball and we dominated."

Conestoga then dominated the second period, seizing a 6-3 lead at halftime before making it 10-3 after three periods. The Hawks did not score again until Tim Browne found the net with 4:21 to play, for the game's last goal.

Kevin Rudd led Pioneers with three goals and an assist and Tyler Brooke had three goals. Flatley and Tanner Scott each had a goal and an assist while John Lopes and Robbie Zonino each had five saves and senior Andrew Anido added one.

"I can't believe this, it's like a dream come true," said Frisina, whose team defeated St. Joe's Prep, 12-9 in the first game of the season after falling behind, 4-0 early. "We knew we needed to wake up when we were down. We knew we needed a goal.

"Every year we have a team goal and when we just get everyone to get in the right mindset we can do it and we can do it again next year, too."

For St. Joe's Prep, it was a tough ending to a brilliant season that saw the Hawks unstead seven-time defending Catholic League champion La Salle and also earn a memorable 11-10 overtime win over Manheim Township in the quarterfinals.

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