WEST CALDWELL – Caldwell High School’s defense held firm all game long, waiting for its offense to spring to life on Tuesday afternoon. But when the boys lacrosse team’s offense finally woke up in the fourth quarter, it was too late, as the visiting Bernards boys held off the Chiefs, for a 5-4 opening day win in West Caldwell.
“I thought we had some missed opportunities, we got a late start. We didn’t get going until the second quarter, and we gave them a head start, and then we had to fight our way out of a hole,” said Caldwell head coach, John Timan. “I think they were a little nervous to start, and I think had high expectations and they wanted play better, they just missed out on a bunch of opportunities.”
It’s hard to overstate how well Caldwell’s defense played, it certainly won’t show up on any stat sheet. Bernards controlled possession, winning the groundball battle, 25-18, the face-offs, 7-6, and the shots battle, 24-21.
Still, a beautiful one-on-one goal by Caldwell’s Ryan Slane, going high for the score, brought the Chiefs within one goal, with 2:13 remaining. The Chiefs won the ensuing face-off, and had possession with a chance to tie. However, the Bernards defense forced a turnover with under a minute to play, and never gave the ball back to Caldwell, preserving the victory.
“We were looking for one specific look, they got the turnover, and we just wanted to get a good shot off there,” Timan said. “We tried to get that last tying goal, we’ve done it many times, we just couldn’t come away with it today.”
Entering the fourth quarter, Caldwell was trailing 5-2, having gone nearly 22 minutes since their second quarter goal. With 6:13 left in the period, Billy Pierce found Sean Dyer cutting to the net, and Dyer ended the scoreless drought with a jumping fade-away shot, re-energizing the Caldwell bench.
Bernards’ offense possessed the ball for almost the entirety of the opening quarter, with the Chiefs managing just two shots on goal, compared to seven for the Mountaineers. Despite that, the game was scoreless until a bad Bernards pass snuck underneath two Chiefs who had a shot at the groundball, ending in the stick of Bernards Kyle Verduin, who finished off the score.
Less than 90 seconds later, Bernards had netted two more scores, taking advantage of a man-up opportunity on the first and then following a wide-open bouncer from Devin Ray. At the end of the first, Caldwell was down 3-0.
The Chiefs got on the board early in the second quarter, when Pierce hit Dyer, again cutting to the goal, and Dyer finished off the point-blank attempt. With 5:46 left in the opening half, Bernards got its second fortunate goal of the game, when Robert Schauffler caught a ball in front of Caldwell’s net and got drilled by a Chief, jarring the ball loose and into the goal, putting Caldwell down by three again. Danny McCarthy brought the Chiefs within two, when he found a way to fit in a one-handed shot, after ducking underneath his defender.
Caldwell’s defense, which kept the Chiefs in the game, was led by an outstanding performance from keeper Joe Vogt. The Chiefs’ net-minder, facing constant pressure, made 16 saves.
“Joe stood on his head, as he always does, the defense played great and held them to five. That’s all you can ask them for,” Timan said. “We gave them the whole first quarter to play offense, so that’s all you can ask for from the defense, the offense just has to put some more in.”
The fact that Bernards is a Waterman Division opponent is what makes Tuesday’s loss somewhat more painful, but the Chiefs fell to 0-1 following the defeat, and will look to improve their offense in the coming games.