MOORESTOWN – It’s thought of as a sport that blends speed, passing skills, and accurate shooting as the formula for winning games.
But in lacrosse the most important play, outside of scoring a goal, is also one that requires a lot brute strength and guile.
In a game where possession of the ball is key to offensive success, the team that wins the most faceoffs is also the team that often wins the game.
There was a case in point Saturday.
With the help of sophomore Chris Furz, Moorestown High School dominated the faceoffs and the Quakers went on to win their third straight South Jersey Group 3 championship with an 8-5 victory over Shawnee.
Furz won the faceoff battle 10-3 and many of those possessions led to goals – especially in the second half when the Quakers outscored their rival 5-2.
“Chris keeps getting better and better each game,” said Moorestown coach Baron Wallenhurst. “He had a heckuva game, and he just keeps growing.”
Furz had a giant pair of shoes to fill this year by replacing Frankie Labetti, last year’s consensus player of the year, as Moorestown’s top faceoff man.
On a team that had to replace four major starters who graduated last year, Furz knew a lot was going to be expected of him and some of the other younger players.
He said he was nervous before the game, but then he chose to lighten up and just have some fun. The key to his approach Furz says is to get his hands moving quickly.
“I was just trying to be as fast as a I can,” he said. “It was a big step up from last year, so I had to do a lot of practicing, I feel like I’ve gotten better as the year has gone along.”
On the other side of the field, Shawnee coach Tim Gushue also discussed the issue of faceoffs, and he conceded his team didn’t fare well in that phase of the game,
“That’s been an issue with us all year long,” he said. “I think in the first two, we actually won the faceoff, but we didn’t get possession of the ground ball. If don’t get the ball, I don’t call it a win, so give credit to their young man.”
It was the fifth year in a row Moorestown has played in the sectional championship and it’s the third year in a row the Quakers will play for the state championship.
Last year’s squad reached the tournament of champions final, but there was been a lot of turnovers since then.
Wallenhurst said he believes his team is jelling at just the right time.
“We’ve been young all year and we’ve had our ups and downs,” he said. “I think we started to put it together today. There’s always turnover, there’s always new guys, so hopefully we can keep it together.
“I was real proud of the way the guys played today.”
Two players who stood up as difference makers Saturday were Sean Carden and Trevor Jones, each of whom scored two goals.
Jones scored his back-to-back at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter when the Quakers took the lead for good.
His first goal, coming with 1:40 left in the third quarter, broke a 4-4 tie. His second with 5:42 remaining in the game, gave Moorestown a 6-4 lead.
“Those goals were huge,” said Jones, a senior who made the transition from midfield to attack this season. “I got chills. The transition has been tough, but I’m playing with two really good attacks in Ben Cantwell and Pat Coleman and they help me out.”
After Moorestown took the lead, they set about putting the game out of reach. As Furz kept winning faceoffs to get the Quakers possession, they kept adding on goals.
Tallies by Shane Knobloch and Coleman extended the Moorestown lead to 8-4 with three minutes to play in the game.
Shawnee made it a little closer with a goal by Bailey Pringle in the closing minutes.
Pringle and Tom Shinske scored two goals each for the Renegades.
S.J. Group 3 Championship
Shawnee 1 2 1 1 -5
Moorestown 0 3 2 3 -8
Shw: Tom Shinske 2, Bailey Pringle 2, Gavin Willson 1.
Moor: Ben Cantwell 1, Sean Carden 2, Shane Knobloch 1, Patrick Coleman 1, Connor McDonough 1, Trevor Jones 2