Amid his moments of great pain, Donovan Welsh gave the Fayetteville-Manlius boys lacrosse team a moment of great joy.
Eight days removed from the death of his father due to liver cancer, Welsh scored the game-winning goal with 31.3 seconds left in regulation to give the Hornets an 8-7 victory over Baldwinsville in Saturday’s Section III Class A final at the Carrier Dome.
“It’s been the most emotional week of my life,” said Welsh. “I wanted this game so bad. I know that he (his father) was watching from above.”
Between the grief of Welsh’s family and the death of an F-M student earlier in the week, head coach Chris Kenneally said all of the bad news has made his team’s bond stronger.
“It has brought us much closer together,” said Kenneally. “These kids played as a team and believe in themselves.”
Indeed, working together, F-M did prevail. After going 21 years in between Section III Class A championships from 1993 to 2013, the Hornets have now has claimed two sectional crowns in the last three seasons.
And this game, just like the Hornets’ 10-9 sectional semifinal win over West Genesee two days earlier, saw the Hornets give back a second-half lead, only to pull it out with poise down the stretch.
Charlie Bertrand, with his fifth goal of the game, had pulled B’ville even, 8-8, with F-M with 2:15 left. But Tommy Ryu won the ensuing face-off, and with possession of the ball, the Hornets chose not to use a time-out, instead working around for a good shot.
It came to Welsh on the left side. He said that he noticed the Bees’ defenders sliding toward the right side because that was where F-M had scored most of its goals during the game. Crossing over his right shoulder, Welsh put it past B’ville goalie Riley Smith.
Still, it wasn’t over. B’ville was able to win the ensuing face-off and called time-out. With Bertrand smothered by F-M’s defenders, the ball went to Connor Smith, who shot – and Hornets goalie Ryan Boshart saved it off his helmet, the ball careening away asnd his teammates able to run out the rest of the clock.
With the familiarity that only a pair of regular-season meetings (both won by F-M) could provide, it only figured that goals were precious in the early going, with the Hornets’ Mac Fish netting the lone tally in the first nine minutes.
Then Tyler Papa and Ryan Cicci hit on goals late in the first quarter to make it 3-0. All three of the scoring plays came on shots from the right side, where the F-M attackers found a vulnerable spot and would come back to it often.
Meanwhile, on the other end, Boshart made several point-blank stops during the opening period, not allowing a goal until Bertrand converted 1:37 into the second quarter. At halftime, the Hornets enjoyed a 5-2 lead.
Once the third quarter started, B’ville caught up, Bertrand netting a third goal and Dillon Darcangelo converting to cut the margin to one. Then Brandon Kohutanich, converting just his third goal all season, forged a 5-5 tie just before the start of the final period.
Having struggled on face-offs, F-M put Garrett Zogby on the draw – and he got the first one of the fourth quarter, leading to James Rettinger’s go-ahead goal at the 45-second mark.
Though Bertrand converted a minute later to tie it again, 6-6, the Bees could not pull in front despite another man-up opportunity. Dan Burnam, again attacking from the right side, put the Hornets back in front with 6:47 left.
For a third time, B’ville caught up with Bertrand’s goal, but as if someone was scripting the end, Welsh would convert the most important goal to bring a championship back to F-M.
In next Saturday’s Class A regional final at Vestal, near Binghamton the Hornets meet Section IV champion Corning at 6 p.m. The winner of that game goes to Cicero-North Syracuse’s Bragman Stadium for the June 8 state semifinal, with the title game June 11 at Middletown.