DUDLEY — Revenge, payback, whatever you want to call it, it was omnipresent in the back of every mind in attendance. These two programs know all about each other after Wahconah lost to Cohasset back in December, in the Division VII football championship game at Gillette Stadium. And there’s plenty of crossover from those who played on the fall gridiron and coach Joe O’Neill’s spring lacrosse team.
But the Wahconah boys lacrosse team avenged the Warriors’ football squad. Coming back to defeat Cohasset, 13-12, in overtime, in the MIAA Division IV Boys Lacrosse State Semifinal.
“Terrible,” said Wahconah head coach Joe O’Neill about his heart rate. “Good thing my wife’s a cardiac intensive care nurse… It means a lot, we got beat up real bad in this game last year. Coming through the way we did in this game, showed a ton of resolve, leadership from those kids. That’s an absolutely fantastic team over there, that we were able to overcome. Absolutely fantastic, superbly coached, everything, it’s a huge win for the program.”
Wahconah was in the state semis last spring too, but lost to Norwell by eight goals.
The No. 3 Warriors will now take on top-seeded Sandwich in the D-IV title game, scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Worcester State University. Sandwich beat No. 5 Dover-Sherborn 7-6 in the other Final Four game.
The 2022 game started and Wahconah looked like it was going to run away, and quickly. Devin Lampron scored twice and Rylan Padelford scored once and had an assist, all in the first four minutes. Jonah Smith scored and Lampron earned a hat trick as Wahconah built an early 5-0 lead.
The Skippers fired away on offense, but were unable to connect. Ben Weissensee scored in the closing seconds to prevent a first-quarter shutout.
Lampron earned his fourth goal of the game just over a minute into the second quarter. But then, Cohasset started to turn the tide. Aidan Westphalen scored through traffic and all of a sudden, the No. 2 seeds found new life.
Henry Burke, Cohasset’s faceoff man, was unstoppable. He simply owned the second quarter and most of the third. Wahconah’s offense stopped mattering because it never touched the ball as Burke won faceoff after faceoff for his side.
And as Cohasset became more comfortable on offense, its shots found the back of the net more and more, as the Skippers went on a monstrous 8-0 run to take the lead, 10-6. They even chewed up over six minutes of game clock on one possession in the third quarter, just preventing anything from happening for Wahconah, as the momentum was firmly on the Cohasset sideline.
And yet, despite all the punishment Wahconah had taken, it was only down four. Caden Padelford found Billy O’Neill for a goal with 8:35 left on the fourth quarter clock and there was some murmuring on the Warriors’ sideline. And then Skye Patti ran almost the entire length of the field, dodged two defenders and scored a long stick goal with 6:48 left on the clock to narrow the lead to two and set off the entirety of Wahconah’s sideline and fan section.
Westphalen responded with another goal for Cohasset just 39 seconds later, but now the Warriors had momentum and Billy O’Neill, while diving in the air, scored not 14 seconds after Westphalen to make it 11-9, Cohasset. Taking advantage of being a man-up, Rylan Padelford again found O’Neill, and the senior flipped in the pass to bring the Warriors to within one and the sideline energy to a boiling point.
Both sides traded possessions for the next few minutes, unable to put anything through. And then with 2:38 on the clock, Caden Padelford again found Billy O’Neill, who got his hat trick and tied the game up, 11-11, setting off Wahconah faithful on the bleachers.
The Skippers weren’t done yet, they kept the pressure on Wahconah and with 49.5 seconds left, Charlie Donovan scored from downtown take a 12-11 lead. Cohasset managed to regain possession, but after a Cohasset ball-carrier came out of the box, Wahconah regained possession and took a timeout with 25 seconds left on the clock.
Jonah Smith, Wahconah’s star running back who was injured in the football team’s championship game against Cohasset, caught a pass from Caden Padelford and put his shot home, tying up the game with 7.5 seconds left while causing his sideline to explode.
In sudden death overtime, Wahconah won the faceoff but was unable to score and Cohasset took over possession. But Wahconah’s defense stood tall and Joe Massaro walled up in net, allowing the Warriors to retake possession, get back on offense and take a timeout.
After the timeout, Smith had the ball at the top and found O’Neil. O’Neill got low and fired the shot into the bottom left corner that put the Warriors into the championship game and sent the entire Wahconah sideline streaming onto the field after him.
“We were working the ball on the left side, ultimately we were looking for me backside or on the crease,” explained Billy O’Neill with a grin. “Hey, it worked. They were ball watching, I caught it, scored.”
“I don’t care who gets the game winner as long as we’re winning,” said Joe O’Neill. “But it is great to have your son on the team and he gets the game winner.”
For nearly half the game it seemed as though Wahconah was down for the count. Unable to even possess the ball on offense, nor get consecutive stops on defense. But the Warriors didn’t let the score or their history with Cohasset get to them.
“Our heart, we wanted that game so badly,” Billy O’Neill said. “It really helps that they beat us in football last fall. We were thinking about (that) leading up to the game so definitely showed it in this game too.”
“Over the course of the time I’ve been head coach, there have been games where we’ve shown massive amounts of heart and massive amounts of fight,” Joe O’Neill said. “I hadn’t seen it in this team yet. I honestly didn’t know if we had it or not. Cause you don’t know it until you really need it, you know what I mean?”
“I go back to what we did against Grafton last year [in the Central/Western Mass. sectional title win]. And that was a huge surge by the kids, that was them just not wanting to lose. It’s easy to love to win but you gotta hate to lose. And I saw that they had it and obviously they fought their asses off.”