CAMDEN – The Cape Henlopen boys lacrosse team let Caesar Rodney get even three times in the second half.
But the Vikings never let the Riders get ahead.
Cape answered each CR rally with a go-ahead score, and put it away with a three-goal burst in the final six minutes to edge Caesar Rodney 11-9 on Wednesday night at Riders Stadium.
The fourth-ranked Vikings (7-3, 5-0 Henlopen North) downed CR (6-3, 4-1) for the third straight season and set up a chance to clinch their third consecutive conference championship with a home win over Sussex Tech next Wednesday.
“I felt like if we got the ball, we could do good things,” Vikings coach Mark D’Ambrogi said. “But they put a lot of pressure on you. Their offense is good.”
The Riders’ offense was good enough to get to the hump, but they never found a way over it.
“They made a couple more plays than we did, but I was very proud of our effort throughout the game,” CR coach Matt Faircloth said. “We just came up a little short.”
It was tied at 1 after the first quarter, but Cape scored four of the five goals in the second quarter to build a 5-2 lead. Ethan Ghabra found the net, Dillon Mocci fed Evan Gehman for a fast-break score and Patrick Monigle pumped in back-to-back goals for the Vikings.
“We established a lead early, and then they wouldn’t go away,” D’Ambrogi said. “They came out well in the second half. We made a couple of mistakes that gave them some extra possessions, and they took advantage of them.”
Patrick Matsko got the Riders on the board again just 57 seconds into the third quarter. Then Demetrius Stevenson circled to his right and fired one in, and Matsko scored on a low shot to tie it at 5.
“I told them before the game, it’s going to be one of those heavyweight bouts,” Faircloth said. “It’s a matter of who’s able to take the punches, be able to adjust to them and keep making plays.”
Cape threw the next punch with a goal from Erik-Stephane Stancofski. CR countered with a tying score from Jacob Pangle. Then Brock Maloomian and Ghabra found the net to send the Vikings into the fourth quarter up 8-6.
The Riders dug deep for another answer, as Noah Longest scored off a turnover and Luke Rankin’s goal tied it at 8 with 8:33 to play.
But Cape delivered the knockout blow with three straight goals. Jacob Brown fed Sean Lally from behind the net for the go-ahead score. Then Brown passed to Ghabra for another goal with 3:14 left. Then Brown capitalized on a turnover for his own goal to make it 11-8 with 2:50 remaining.
“We narrowed our focus, and we moved the ball a little bit quicker,” D’Ambrogi said. “Then those guys who had the opportunity to finish did it.”
The Riders tried to rally with a goal from Jacob Copio with 21.6 seconds to play, but it wasn’t enough.
“The ball bounces different ways,” Faircloth said. “We had a couple of balls bounce off the pipe. We had a couple of turnovers that hurt us, and we got caught in odd-man situations. In a four-on-three situation, it’s tough to be able to stop those.”
Contact Brad Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.