GRATERFORD >> A big part of the rise of Perkiomen Valley’s boys’ lacrosse program has been the adoption of a “take on all comers” approach.
The Vikings schedule aggressively in the early season and throughout the non-league portion of the schedule, assuring they’re a battle-tested group come Pioneer Athletic Conference and District 1 playoff time.
On Monday night, the payoff came for the defending PAC champions in the form of a last-second thrilling victory over perennial power Conestoga, 7-6.
Aidan McCabe’s second goal of the game, launched from the top of the box with 0.4 seconds left, capped a seesaw contest that saw the Vikings — who started with a 3-0 lead — rally from a two-goal deficit in the third quarter for the victory.
“Never scored a goal like that one before,” McCabe said. “I saw one second on the clock, just pulled the trigger.”
Matt Farrington (two goals, two assists on the evening) took the ball on a restart with ten seconds to play and the score knotted, 6-6. Forced left by Conestoga’s Jason Wagner, Farrington twisted to find McCabe at the top of the box, where the senior midfielder fired an overhand shot that beat Patrick Jameison (13 saves) and the buzzer for the historic victory.
“We’ve been talking for years about becoming the best versions of ourselves,” said PV coach Bryan Churchey. “That’s [Conestoga] a legacy program. We want to get to a point like that, where we have hundreds of kids growing up playing lacrosse in our community. That’s why we schedule these games – to compete, but ultimately to win.
“But it starts here, at the high school level, building a family. That’s what we are, a family.”
The result will likely go down as an upset, but there was nothing fluky or accidental about the result. Perkiomen Valley controlled play for portions of the contest – as did the Pioneers. In the end, however, it was PV making the big, deciding play.
McCabe and Farrington each tallied twice for the victors, with Dane Hagen, Shea Fusco, and Dallas Pulliam hitting the net as well. Pulliam controlled faceoffs throughout the night, going 11-for-16 against various Pioneers, who were missing FOGO Ian Kim.
Jameison’s ten first-half stops kept the Pioneers out of a deep hole early, and once the team got rolling ‘Stoga turned a 3-0 deficit into a 5-3 lead, holding Perkiomen Valley without a goal for a 23-minute stretch between the second and third quarters. In the meantime, Brody Eaton and Drew Merschel each found the back of the net twice, with Wade Beckstrom and Mike Austin joining them on the scoresheet.
The key was a midgame defensive switch that allowed the Vikings to stay close during the drought. Conestoga attempted 39 shots on the evening, and holding the Pioneers to six goals required a group effort. “
Some guys stepped up in key positions,” summarized Churchey.
But Fusco struck with 12 seconds to play in the third quarter, and Pulliam’s scoop-and-score off the fourth-quarter faceoff tied the contest, 5-5. Merschel and Farrington traded markers before Perkiomen Valley (4-1, 1-0 PAC) withstood sustained ‘Stoga possession over the final three minutes to set the stage for McCabe’s heroics.
“We knew how good they were,” McCabe said. “But it’s more than hoping for the best. We played our hearts out for this.”
For the Pioneers (3-5), the contest was a continuation of a grueling schedule that’s seen the perennial state contenders take on Gilman (MD), defending PIAA 3A champion Radnor, and Catholic League favorites La Salle College in the early going – with Central League rivals including Garnet Valley and Springfield-Delco still to come.
Conestoga has certainly earned its upcoming eight-day break in game action before returning to host Ridley next week.
“This one hurt,” said Conestoga coach Brody Bush. “You’re not gonna win many games when you shoot 15 percent.
“But all credit to Perkiomen Valley. That’s a good team. We’ll get healed up, and I’ll be interested to see how we respond after the break.”
Meanwhile, Perkiomen Valley returns to the field Tuesday night against Issaquah (WA), a West Coast powerhouse spending their Spring Break in the Philadelphia area, where they’ll match up with not only the Vikings, but North Penn and Germantown Academy before returning home.
“We have a science teacher at the high school, Mr. Blake Mitchell, who played at Whittier College in California,” Churchey said. “He knows the Issaquah head coach, and he knew they were flying out here looking for some games.”
Churchey, of course, jumped at the opportunity. As Monday night proved, there are benefits to taking on all comers.