PENNINGTON – It seems every year South Jersey’s boys lacrosse coaches and players present the same argument.
They say their teams are closing the gap on their counterparts in the Northern part of the state. They believe they are on the verge of being able to compete at that higher level.
And then every year the gap remains wide open. The Lenape and Moorestown boys fell victims in the latest example of being unable to compete against the North.
Lenape fell behind 5-0 by midway through the second quarter and then went on to drop the state Group 4 championship game 10-3 to Watchung Hills in played Wednesday at Hopewell Valley High School.
In the Group 3 title game, defending champion Moorestown – still the only South Jersey boys team ever state title – lost a 10-6 decision to Northern Highlands in a game played at Shore Regional.
Afterward, a couple of Lenape’s players offered their opinions on what has been so difficult for Southern teams to compete at a state championship level.
“They just have so much depth,” said senior Matt Lajoie, who finished his career 0-for-2 in state championship game. “They have more talent. They have lines of midfielders who can just run you up and down the field at a fast pace.”
Senior Zach Stone also noted the differential in talent.
“We didn’t play out best,” he said. “But they were the best team we played all year.”
Lajoie scored Lenape’s first goal, but before the Warriors had managed their five-goal lead. Dave Venuto and Bryce Reese also connected, but his goals came with only two seconds to play in the game.
Wactchung Hill had three players score multiple goals Wednesday, led by James Connor with five.
Connor scored three of his goals in a five-goal third quarter that ended with the Warriors ahead 10-2.
“They were just a better team, no doubt about it,” Matt Ingersoll, one of four Lenape players who were freshman on the team the last time the Indians played for a state championship.
“We had some mental mistakes, but hands down they just played better,” he said. “I was frustrated. They’re defenders were very good they were on our hands the whole game.
“But you live and you learn, and the program will only go up.”
All season long the Indians (19-3) were right there among South Jersey’s best teams, opening the season with 15 straight wins.
Coach Bill Sutphin knew his team was going to be in for a challenge against the Warriors, but he was expecting more than his team was able to deliver.
“Obviously going in I thought we were going to be able to compete with them,” he said. “We knew it was a high level of lacrosse they played, but felt like we had a good game-plan coming in.
“We felt like we didn’t execute some things, and they did. We knew we were going to have a to play pretty solid game – a near perfect game – to pull off the upset, but we had too many mental errors.
“They were too much for what we thought was going to come.”
- Moorestown rally falls short: Moorestown trailed Northern Highlands 10-3 in the fourth quarter, but got the final there goals on tallies by Trevor Jones, Brian Carden and Ryan Pozago to make the outcome a little more respectable.
However, that surge was not good enough to prevent the Highlanders from winning its first-ever state championship.
Jones led the Quakers with two goals, while Ben Cantwell had three assists.
Group 4 State Championship
Lenape 0 1 1 1 -3
Watchton Hills 3 2 5 0-10
Len: Matt Lajoie, Dante Venuto, Bryce Reece.
WH: Brian Richmond 3, Gavin Defuria 2, James Connor 4, Tyler James.