Vestal continued its dominance of Section 4 competition, defeating Horseheads 16-7 for its fourth consecutive Class B boys lacrosse championship Thursday night at Vestal High’s Dick Hoover Stadium.
The Golden Bears (15-2) will next face the Section 3 Class B champ in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cicero-North Syracuse High.
Jake Nelson, Sam Bulman and Pat Carlin combined for 11 goals and three assists. Nelson, a junior attack, had four goals and two assists; Bulman, a senior midfielder, four goals; and Carlin, a senior midfielder, three goals and an assist.
Horseheads (6-9) received three goals from Ian Cook and two from Jordan Gush. Caleb Stope and Bailey Bourgeois added a goal apiece, and Carter McCormick contributed four assists.
Chris Buciarelli turned away 11 shots in net for the Blue Raiders, though coach Peter Cook thought it may have been more.
“They’re a solid team. We ran out of gas,” Cook said.
Horseheads kept it close for most of the first half as Vestal started out moving the ball in a deliberate fashion. Golden Bears coach Chris Dutkowsky said that’s not how his team plays at its best.
“We needed to stick with our game plan and work the ball faster. We got away from that,” he said.
The Blue Raiders were tied twice at 1-1 and 2-2, and with 4 minutes, 37 seconds left in the half trailed just 4-3. Cook scored two of the goals, one with 7:14 left in the first quarter that made it 2-2.
Vestal then took control, putting in four goals in a span of a little more than two minutes to go up 8-3 at halftime. Nelson had two of the goals.
The Golden Bears continued to pour it in the third period, outscoring Horseheads 7-2. Carlin and Bulman each scored twice in the period for Vestal.
Nick Nestlerode started in goal for Vestal and made four saves. Dylon Newkirk took over and added three more.
Nestlerode was steady as the Golden Bears struggled early.
“Our offense has helped us all year,” the senior goalie said. “After a rough start we pulled together and stayed focused.”
Horseheads played Vestal twice during the regular season, losing by a combined 30-13.
Cook noted the Blue Raiders were competing with many underclassmen this season. He remembers similar games where his team started strong and then lost steam.
“We’re young,” he said. “We’re building for the future.”