CLARK – In an NJSIAA first round boys lacrosse game that had atmosphere of a championship game, Barnegat completed a fourth-quarter comeback that will not be forgotten for a long time.
The No. 9 seed Bengals rallied from a three-goal deficit in the fourth quarter and defeated No. 8 seed Arthur L. Johnson, 12-11, to win a first round NJSIAA South Group I game on Saturday as Chaz Tropea scored the game-winning goal.
It was the first NJSIAA win for the Bengals in school history.
The Bengals (10-4) began the game as the aggressors, scoring the games first two goals, from Hunter Narozniak and Ricky Gerena. Barnegat goalie Kyle Kessinger made key saves early in the first half to keep the Bengals ahead.
At the start of the second quarter, the roles had reversed, as the Crusaders began to dominate the Bengals. Two Crusaders, Kyle Glassen and Matt Pedicine scored a combined seven goals as the Crusaders held a 7-3 lead at halftime.
However, Barnegat coach Ryan Dalon knew he had to keep his teams’ spirit up at halftime.
“We were feeling pretty down overall,” Coach Dalon said. “We needed to figure out how to get some quick goals going into the third quarter. We had to come out strong.”
And much like the start of the game, the Bengals came out swinging, outscoring A.L. Johnson, 4-2, in the third quarter, with two goals from Matt Manno, and a goal each from Ricky Gerena and Ryan Reynolds.
Seemingly down and out after trailing, 11-8, in the final moments of the fourth quarter, the Bengals were able to rally around crucial goals from J.J. McKenna and Zach Flaherty, before Chaz Tropea was able to put the ball in the back of the net to score the game winner.
“This was pretty incredible,” Tropea said. “It felt like our comeback against Red Bank Catholic. It felt good that we all came together at the end to get the win.”
Junior J.J. McKenna led the Bengals with three goals while goalie Kyle Kessinger had a strong outing, making 12 saves. The Crusaders’ Kyle Glassen led his team with six goals, followed by Matt Pedicine, with four goals and two assists.
“Once the momentum started swinging back in our direction, anything was possible,” Coach Dalon said. “These boys really played their hearts out.”
The Bengals will face off against No. 1 seed New Providence in the NJSIAA South Group 1 quarterfinals on Tuesday.
Ryan Norton: email@example.com