The Hamburg Bulldogs and the Niagara Wheatfield Falcons matched each other goal for goal in the first half.
The second half was a different story.
Hamburg scored 12 unanswered goals in the second half to beat Niagara Wheatfield 18-5 to take the Section VI Class B Boys Lacrosse title on Thursday night.
For Hamburg head coach Jeremiah Severino the game was the complete all-around game from his team that he had be looking for all season.
“There are victories and then there are nights like tonight,” Severino said. “We really gelled tonight.”
Hamburg took advantage of the man-advantage opportunity as junior Jared Milley opened the scoring. Niagara Wheatfield sophomore Devin Napoleon over powered the defender and shot one in to it tie. Junior Jack Rettig found sophomore Brock Schneider in front of net to give Hamburg back the lead.
Falcon captains Nate Maloney and Brandon Sveda connected to make it 2-2. Senior Kobe Wright fired one in from 15 yards out to give the Bulldogs the 3-2 lead at end of the first period.
Dawit Martin got on a roll for Wheatfield as the second period got underway. He found Bobby Bruno to tie the game two minutes in and then later found room in front of the net to score and give the Falcons what would turn out to be there only lead of the game, 4-3.
The Bulldogs kept up and contined to match.
With only a few seconds left in the half, Schneider jumped over a Wheatfield defender and on his way down shot it to put Hamburg in front, 6-5.
Then the second half came and the Bulldogs took over.
Severino knew his team had the momentum and could continue it in the second.
“We talked about momentum and how lacrosse is a game of runs,” Severino said. “We came out with a tremendous third quarter and our defense came through and shut them down.”
Milley and John Collins scored goals 20 seconds apart to give the Bulldogs a three-goal lead. Wright scored after the man on him fell down. Schneider and Milley each scored their third goal of the game before the third period came to an end.
Brock Schneider ended with four goals.
In the fourth, the onslaught continued. Just like the first and third, Milley also opened the last period with a goal. The junior led the Bulldogs with 5 goals and an assist in the win.
Milley has not been big for the Bulldogs this year, but in the sectional final he shined.
“I was quiet for most of the season,” Milley said. “To have a breakout game in the sectional final in front of all these fans is a great feeling,”
His coach said that Milley told him beforehand that he was going to have a great game against Wheatfield.
“He had a breakout game,” Severino said. “He promised me yesterday that he was going to take the game over. He was hungry for the goal.”
Thursday night’s game didn’t turn out to be like any of these two teams’ meetings of the past. On May 11, the Bulldogs beat Wheatfield 12-11. Wheatfield has been the only opponent in the last seven sectional finals for the Bulldogs, and the previous games were not quite as lopsided.
Niagara Wheatfield head coach Vince Schiffert was at a loss for words after the game.
“It was a game of two halves,” Schiffert said. “It was great in the first half and then everything went down in the second half. The ball bounced their way and we couldn’t stop them from scoring. Things got away from us.”
The win on Thursday night makes it seven straight sectional finals for Hamburg. The key to the continued success of the program is the strong ties that it has with its community.
“We’ve had a lot of success at Hamburg due to athletes like this, supportive parents, the community, Hamburg Youth Lacrosse and my coaches all the way down to the modified and JV,” Severino said. “This is their win as much as anybody.”
Milley echoed his coach saying the program has many strong families that help keep the tradition going. There are three sets of brothers on the current roster, and many other players including Milley have older brothers that played on the team too. The Chiodo brothers, Brett and Jason, had back-to-back goals in the four quarter for the Bulldogs.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Milley said. “My brother played in 2008 and I started playing, we have tons of siblings on the team. We’re just keeping the dynasty alive for the future.”
The Bulldogs go onto the Far West Regionals on Saturday. They face Section V Champion Victor for a 12:30 p.m. faceoff.