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Easton boys lacrosse starts strong, holding off Parkland’s furious rally in EPC semifinals

Easton boys lacrosse starts strong, holding off Parkland’s furious rally in EPC semifinals

The Easton boys lacrosse team earned a trip back to the Easter Pennsylvania Conference championship game with an eerily similar performance to the one that secured a league title last spring.

Playing the same team, Parkland, on the same ground, Al Erdosy Stadium in Northampton, as they won the league title, Red Rovers got off to another hot start that proved crucial to their win on Wednesday night.

Third-seeded Easton never trailed, leading by as many as five in the second quarter and holding on late in a 12-10 victory over the second-seeded Trojans.

The Rovers (14-4) will face top-seeded Emmaus, who defeated fourth-seeded Allentown Central Catholic 9-7 in the other semifinal, in the final on Tuesday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m.

“Once we started so quickly, I had flashbacks to last year. The only difference was it was darker last year,” Easton senior goalkeeper Ethan Lapham said. “It was nice to have such a fast start.”

There were a few more differences than just the start time of last year’s competition final and this semi-final.

Last year, Parkland (13-6) never managed the comeback it did in the semifinals.

Twice the Trojans cut the deficit to one, but Easton made just enough plays to pull away.

Leading 11-10 in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, a ground ball by senior Shawn Quinn, an interception by freshman Sean McPeek and an offside call on Parkland helped the Rovers retain possession.

Junior Shae Linegar held the ball on the offensive end for about 90 seconds before, as the Trojans pressed for a turnover, fellow junior Xavier Parker sealed the victory with 31.9 seconds left by scoring on an open cage.

“As a team we didn’t think: ‘Who will get the next goal? Who will get the next assist?’ We’re thinking, ‘Who’s going to get the next hustle play, the next GB (ground ball), the next pass, next clear, next save?’ We think more as a whole, about the bigger picture,” says Linegar.

“That’s what this team stands for: resilience,” McPeek said. “For Shae Linegar to run that ball for two minutes straight, I’m so proud of him. I think he won the game for us.”

That goal was Easton’s first and only of the fourth quarter. The Rovers also only found the cage in the final minute of the third.

Parkland narrowed a 9-6 halftime deficit with a goal from sophomore John Gerancher eight minutes into the third and a score from junior Parker Kusko two minutes later on a feed from junior Erik Matulevicius.

McPeek cleared the Rovers goal with 22 seconds left in the third. Easton won the ensuing faceoff and after freshman Evan Placotaris was denied by the post, McPeek picked up the ground ball and passed back to Placotaris, who scored with no time showing on the clock.

The Rovers didn’t wait to get going in the first quarter.

McPeek opened the scoring after just 33 seconds and made it 2-0 three minutes later on a feed from Linegar.

“I think we were almost 100% on our shots in the first quarter. We really clicked,” Linegar said of the reason for Rovers’ fast start. “Sean McPeek, he hit two-on-two right away. Cael (DiSora) was there, Xavier, everyone just clicked and scored goals.”

Parker capped a quick transition from Easton with a goal and then fed McPeek, who made it 4-1 with 4:25 left in the first quarter. Linegar weaved his way past the Trojans’ defense and found the cage two minutes later.

“We lost to them in the first game, so it was kind of like our revenge tour,” McPeek said, referring to the Trojans’ season-opening 15-10 win over Easton. “We came out well, scored four times and made a statement quickly.”

“We weren’t really thinking about defending a title, we were thinking more about revenge. We wanted them (Parkland),” Linegar added. “All season long they were on our bucket list, they were at the top of the list.”

Shortly after the Rovers won the ensuing face-off following Parkland’s second goal, scored by Kusko, McPeek scored his fourth and final goal of the first to make it 6–2 going into the second.

Parker gave senior Shawn Quinn, who scored on a bounce shot, the lead to 7-2 one minute into the second. A few minutes later, Linegar rolled off a McPeek pick and delivered a pass over the front of the cage to the freshman, who scored to make it 8-3.

“We pushed the ball. We saw what they were in, they played zone, and that’s what we’re good at. I scored a couple of easy goals,” McPeek said. “It set the tone for the rest of the game.”

While the Rovers broke down Parkland’s zone defense, their own zone created early turnovers at the other end and seemed to take the Trojans out of their element.

“We played them earlier this year man. We really worked in our zone that game, but it was our first time of the year,” Easton senior James Geiger said. “We implemented our zone for the rest of the year and now we feel comfortable.”

Easton forced Parkland into some turnovers, but as the game progressed, the Trojans struggled passing and also had several unforced turnovers.

“We definitely messed with them a little bit,” Geiger said.

McPeek led the Rovers with six goals and two assists. Linegar and Parker each recorded a pair of goals and assists.

Easton will look to defend its EPC title as the Green Hornets (18-1) look for their first league championship since 2012.

Kusko followed Parkland with four goals and two assists, while Gerancher recorded a hat trick. Junior Mazzin Afif had three assists for the Trojans, who will look to regroup ahead of the District 11 Class 3A tournament.

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Desmond Boyle can be reached at [email protected].