The first quarter was exactly the way the Southern Regional boys lacrosse team wanted to start off against Ridge in the NJSIAA Group IV final on Wednesday night.
The Rams dominated time of possession, were patient on offense and the defense and goalie Brendan Lefanto kept Ridge off the scoreboard while holding a slim lead.
However, things took a turn for the worst for Southern, as Ridge scored four straight goals to start off the second quarter and the Red Devils increased that margin the rest of the way for a 12-4 victory at Somerville High School.
“In these games over the last couple of years, when we get beat up in the midfield, these games can turn. If you look at this group, which is a great group, it is probably our biggest weakness,” Southern coach John Pampalone said. “We have problems against some elite teams with clearing the ball. Our faceoff guy got beat up a little bit today. You have to give (Ridge) credit, they were able to stabilize possessions. But we really lost this game in the middle of the field.”
The Rams (18-2) took a 1-0 lead after the first quarter when senior midfielder Al Manzo scored with 45.8 seconds left. Tyler Lipositz had the assist and Lefanto (10 saves) stopped all four Ridge shots he faced in the first quarter.
But Ridge (18-3) took control of the game in the second quarter.
The Red Devils’ senior midfielder Eric Scott was a menace to the Rams all game. He scored the first of his game-high four goals with 11:44 left in the second quarter and that started a four-goal run and gave Ridge a 4-1 lead with 5:33 left in the second quarter.
“There is a lot of satisfaction about this season. This group of 15 seniors sold out for the last two years. They all played varsity last year. They won their division. They won their section,” Pampalone said. “There is a lot to be proud of. Are we happy losing (this game)? No. But are we proud of these guys? Absolutely.”
While Manzo got Southern on the board in the first quarter, junior attackman Brendan Mullen had a goal with 2:36 left in the second quarter that decreased Ridge’s lead to 4-2 but the Red Devils got that goal back, as junior midfielder Alex Gaydos scored with 1:50 left in the second quarter.
“Although we didn’t win and the score wasn’t where we needed it to be,” Pampalone said. “We came up here and we played hard and we competed.”
Southern was shut out in the third quarter while Ridge scored seven straight goals between the third and fourth quarters to take a 12-2 lead with 10:14 left in the fourth quarter.
The Rams scored the final two goals of the game as sophomore midfielder Chris Smith scored with 7:53 left and junior midfielder Brian Dunphey tallied with 4:19 left.
It was Southern’s first appearance in the NJSIAA boys lacrosse state finals after the Rams won their first sectional title in school history on Saturday.