MIDDLETOWN – Appoquinimink’s boys lacrosse team doesn’t have the huge defenders who can make attackers think twice about coming too close to the cage.
So the Jaguars use their quickness to take the ball away before their opponents get close. Defenders Nick Bowen, Nick Ferrera and Connor Graser forced turnovers to feed the Jaguars’ offense in a frigid, 13-7 home victory over Caravel on Saturday.
“We’re trying to be more aggressive, get on the hands of the defense, try to arrive early and make them drop the ball so we can have more possessions,” Bowen said. “That’s what our focus was coming into the season, because we’re generally a small defense. We don’t have big guys.”
With Jake Shriner taking faceoffs for the Buccaneers, Appo knew it would have to create turnovers to have a chance. Caravel won 15 of 22 faceoffs, losing four on violations. Despite running four different players at him, the Jaguars could only win two faceoffs against Shriner, a senior whose skills have earned a scholarship from Loyola (Md.).
“Jake is just so good with his hands, and he knows the moves,” Appo coach Chris Rutter said. “He’s an animal.”
But the Buccaneers (2-1) couldn’t take advantage of their early possessions. Bowen, Ferrera and Graser extended their pressure and stripped the ball, and the Jaguars’ offense took it from there. Cross Ferrera scored the first two and John Dunbar banged in the next two as Appo took a 4-0 lead after one quarter.
“Defense made our plays,” Dunbar said. “Defense was on their hands, played aggressive, shut down their leading scorers. I thought defense made the offense work a little harder.”
Cross Ferrera scored two more and Dunbar added one in the second quarter as the Jaguars extended their lead to 7-1. Cross Ferrera led the Jaguars (2-0) with five goals, while Dunbar had three goals and six assists. Zach Bowen added two goals and three assists as Appo had assists on 12 of its 13 goals.
“Cross and I, we’ve played together since we’ve known each other, since we could walk,” Dunbar said.
The Buccaneers started to find some offense in the third quarter, getting goals from Michael Zerillo, Ryan McNary and Zach Blake. But Appo had an adequate answer, as Fran Gillespie, Jordan Ashby and Logan Yoder scored to push the Jaguars’ lead to 13-4 with 8:54 left in the game.
“We have a lot of returners on the offensive side,” Dunbar said. “We have our whole attack, a lot of middies, a lot of young guys. We put in a lot of work on our stick skills this offseason, hoping to get better on offense because we knew that was a strong point.”
Appo has high expectations after finishing 14-3 last season and losing a 15-11 heartbreaker to Caesar Rodney in the DIAA quarterfinals.
“We’re young,” Rutter said. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores, juniors, even some freshmen getting some time out there. It’s about learning to be a little more mature. But our skills are great. We have a bunch of athletes out there, and they’re willing to learn. Once we get that focus down, we’re going to be really good.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ