It has begun to look like the one thing folks can count on is the Bishop Guertin High boys’ lacrosse team playing in the New Hampshire Division I finals each spring.
The BG Cardinals made it to the finals for the 11th consecutive year this spring, and they were looking for their sixth straight D-I title and a third consecutive besting of the Pinkerton Academy Astros in that contest Saturday, June 13, at Exeter High School’s Bill Ball Stadium.
But after walking away from the 2013 and 2014 D-I title matches as runner-up, the third-seeded PA Astros halted the top-ranked Guertin group’s long run of consecutive titles by defeating the Cards by a 9-7 tally in the 2015 battle in Exeter.
Senior attack Todd Billetter potted three goals, his fellow senior Jack Hanaway and junior faceoff specialist Brett Dattilo each tallied twice, and senior midfielder Sam Ward and sophomore middie Drew Strople each scored once as the academy side bagged its first championship since 2006. That year, the Astros beat Guertin as well.
During Guertin’s 11-year run of D-I title game appearances, the Pinkerton squad has been the Cardinals’ opponent seven times. And with Saturday night’s success, the Astros have now collected two titles in those seven matches.
“We’ve always been there, making it to the semifinals or finals. We’ve always played well, but BG has played a little bit better,” said coach Brian O’Reilly.
The Cardinals were dominant in the first quarter of the 2015 final, tallying a 2-0 lead and enjoying a 5-1 advantage in shots on net during those dozen minutes of action. But the Astros answered that effort with a strong one of their own in the second period, outshooting their opponent by an 8-5 margin and knotting the score at 2-2 with unanswered tallies from Ward and Hanaway before halftime arrived.
It wouldn’t have been a stretch to see the handful of shots Pinkerton took in the first half that clanged off posts or the crossbar on the BG net as bad omens, but Pinkerton forged forth undeterred.
Guertin regained the lead at 3-2 just 1:31 into the second half, but two consecutive goals from Billetter during the next five minutes gave PA its first lead of the night at 4-3.
However, the score would be bound up yet again at 4-4 and 5-5 – with Billetter giving his side a 5-4 lead for less than two minutes – before the third quarter became a memory.
The academy laxmen took the lead for good on tallies by Hanaway – at the end of a great, full-field rush – and Strople during the opening three minutes of quarter four to claim a 7-5 lead.
Guertin cut the advantage back to 7-6 with a goal with 8:12 showing on the game clock, but two more consecutive markers out of the stick of Dattilo gave Pinkerton a 9-6 lead with 4:44 remaining, and the five-time defending champions were only able to answer with one more goal before the final horn sounded and the Astros and their fans slipped into celebration mode.
PA senior goalie Nick Richard made 10 stops his contribution to the dramatic win, and he and his teammates had every reason to be wearing ear-to-ear grins.
“This is unreal,” observed Saint Anselm College-bound PA star Billetter after the match. “To lose to them my first three years but then beat them in my last chance is incredible. I’ve played lacrosse with some of these (Pinkerton) guys for 12 years, and I wouldn’t want it to end any other way.”
The Astros had made their return to the championship match for a third straight year with an 11-5 trouncing of the second-seeded Bedford High Bulldogs in semifinal-round play at Nashua’s Stellos Stadium Wednesday, June 10.
The victory was the white-hot Astros’ 11th in a row, and it avenged the Astros’ 15-7 regular season loss to the Bedford bunch in Derry on April 18.
Junior midfielder Dattilo and senior goalie Nick Richard were two of the PA stalwarts who stood up tallest in the winning effort, with Dattilo doing stellar work on faceoffs for his side – and also scoring a team-high four goals – and keeper Richard registering an impressive dozen saves against the potent Bulldogs’ offense.
The Astros won every period, holding leads of 4-1 after one quarter, 7-3 at halftime, and 8-4 going into the last stanza.
Along with Dattilo’s fine four-goal output, the locals received three tallies from Billetter, two goals from Strople, a goal and an assist from Mason Barchard, one goal from Hanaway, and one assist from James Tulley.
“When I saw the way we played Bedford, not just beating them but dominating them, then I knew we’d turned the corner,” said O’Reilly following the title victory over BG.