Exeter holds off Souhegan for spot in semis
AMHERST – Brad Bishop felt good about where his Souhegan High School boys lacrosse team was going into the second half of Thursday’s Division I quarterfinal against Exeter.
After a slow start, the No. 3 Sabers had fought back to within two goals before halftime, a deficit the Souhegan coach felt was something his team could overcome.
But the No. 6 Blue Hawks had other ideas, scoring two goals in the first 34 seconds of the third quarter, including one just seven seconds into the frame, and Exeter never let Souhegan get back in the game, as it won 16-7.
The win sends Exeter (11-7) to the semifinals, where the Blue Hawks will face No. 2 Pinkerton Academy, which beat No. 7 Londonderry 13-6.
For Souhegan (11-6), it was a frustrating end to a promising season.
“We couldn’t beat them one-on-one to create offense for ourselves,” Bishop said. “The last time we played in the rain against them, we had the footing and we could dodge. This time we couldn’t. They were giving us one way and we went that way and our footing would slip.”
Mitch Hale and Alex Kuhnert each had two goals and an assist for the Sabers, while Brendan Cray had a goal and three assists. Blake Burnley and Joe Nutting also had a goal each, while Nick King made eight saves and Alex Burnley had one.
After giving up 26 goals in two games to the Sabers during the regular season, Exeter coach Gerry Holly wanted to see his team play better defense than it had, particularly when the Blue Hawks lost 15-13 in Amherst on May 16.
“I probably watched that film five or six times, and it wasn’t anything that they did last time, it was more about what we did,” Holly said. “We really didn’t play disciplined in the defense half of the field, and that’s what we wanted to focus on, making sure we didn’t slide unless we need to and help each other out more.”
It helped that Exeter had a full roster back, and it showed, as four different players had at least three goals, and a total of seven scored for the Blue Hawks. Buddy Carr led the way with four goals, while Jack Carr, Christian Stone and Brad Simas each had three.
Exeter led 6-4 at the end of the first half and Bishop felt like the Sabers were in good shape going into the third, but Sean Penna won the opening faceoff and found Buddy Carr for a goal just seven seconds into the third.
Penna won another faceoff and Carr scored against to make it 8-4 with 11:26 still to play in the quarter.
“We came out a little flat and got behind, but we caught back up before halftime,” Bishop said. “We were only down two and that’s easily comebackable. We made a change and they scored a few quick ones with their faceoff kid. He started heating up, which is painful because he’s one of the best.
“It definitely hurts, when you get everyone fired up for another 24 minutes and they come right back out and bury you in a few seconds.”
From there, Exeter started to work the clock, scoring on two long possessions to make it 10-4 with 4:46 to go in the quarter. It was an 11-5 lead for the Blue Hawks going into the fourth, and Exeter never let Souhegan get closer than six goals the rest of the way.
“We were just so gung-ho about making the playoffs, we just came out a little too lackadaisical,” Bishop said. “I think this is great motivation. Hopefully we don’t look over everyone and take it lightly.”