WILMINGTON – With normal goal keeper Tyler Cross out due to an illness, Caesar Rodney head coach Matt Faircloth informed backup goalie Josh Buxton that he would starting Thursday’s boys’ lacrosse showdown with Tower Hill five hours before the game.
Buxton was nervous at first but got into the groove quickly to reward his coach’s faith in him, making several big saves and helping the Riders earn a 6-4 victory over the host Hillers in non-conference action.
“I told him all season to make sure he’s ready, and any kid who is behind a starter, make sure they’re ready because their number may be called,” Faircloth said. “I talked to him at noon today that he’s starting this big game we had. He absolutely took advantage of his opportunity. He was very excited to have it, and the guys really rallied behind him.”
It was a tough start for Buxton as Tower Hill (3-2) struck quickly, scoring 18 seconds into the game when Connor Hattersley scored off a Jamie Spruance pass to give Hillers a 1-0 lead.
Caesar Rodney (5-0) responded just over two minutes later when David Schmidt deposited a shot into the net to tie the game at 1-1, and the score remained that way after Buxton stopped a shot midway through the quarter, which settled him down.
“I was really anxious at the beginning, but it became natural after that. It was just like practice,” Buxton, who made ten saves, said. “Usually getting the first save of the game for your team really gets the momentum going for the rest of game.”
Luke Rankin scored 2:16 into the second quarter to give the Riders the lead, and Thomas Aloe added a pair of goals later in the period to giver Caesar Rodney a 4-1 advantage going into halftime.
Both teams scored twice in the third quarter to make it 6-3 entering the final period, and Tower Hill cut its deficit to two when Andrew Pettit bounced a shot into the net with 2:56 left in the game.
The Hillers had a couple of chances to draw closer, including a man-up situation in the final minutes, but the Riders’ defense and Buxton made the plays down the stretch to maintain the win, getting a measure of revenge after Tower Hill beat them 9-7 in a matchup last year.
“Tower Hill is a good team. They’re solid at every position. To beat them, it’s extra sweet, because we lost to them at home last year,” said Aloe, who had three goals.
“It’s a pretty good test, and I’m happy with the way we played.” Michael Gianforcaro made eight saves for the Hillers.
Caesar Rodney’s Luke Rankin (No. 27) works against Tower Hill’s Noah Thomas (No. 6) during a DIAA lacrosse game at Tower Hill on Thursday evening. Caesar Rodney defeated Tower Hill by a score of 6-4.