Championship game photos available here all proceeds benefit local lacrosse charities.
There was plenty of great action in this game, and we’ll get to it shortly. But there’s one big story staring us in the face that just can’t be ignored. Seattle Academy’s All-Conference goalie, Andrew McCall, was having a heck of a season, when a freak accident in practice caused an injury to his right leg. Trainers didn’t think it was serious and he just rested it a bit, sitting out but returning to the field for a game against Sehome-Bellingham. Yet something didn’t feel right, he was still in a lot of pain. A trip to the doc and an X-Ray later, they verified that his leg was, uh, broken. The bone was fractured and needed some rest. Three weeks later another examination revealed it was healing properly and wouldn’t be damaged any further by playing on it, assuming McCall could manage the pain. He toughed out a majority of the next two playoff wins, and assisted by the play of backup Jake Green, they saved over 70% of shots in their playoff games. And the Cardinals found themselves in Saturday’s Championship game against King’s Way.
Up 1-0 in the first quarter of that game, McCall stepped out of the net on a shot by King’s Way’s Nathan Swift, working to cut down the angle that Swift had on the cage. The shot sailed high, but McCall went down as his right leg buckled, unable to continue. “It was a real heartstopper for us,” said Head Coach Scott Pattison, “we knew he was in a lot of pain.” While Green warmed up and substituted in, McCall gathered himself on the sideline.
When play resumed Green immediately made a doorstop save on the left post, and junior Tommy Hadac (2g, gb) ringed a long steamer to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Then suddenly McCall declared “I’m ready to go back in.”
WITH A BROKEN LEG.
“There is no doubt he is a bad ass,” said Coach Pattison, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
McCall’s return buoyed his teammates, as Aidan Lawry caught King’s Way in a late slide and ripped a sure thing from six yards outside the crease, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead in 2nd quarter. At this point it felt like momentum was all Seattle Academy and King’s Way would never be able to overcome it.
But King’s Way and their entourage didn’t drive three hours just to play the patsies in somebody else’s Hollywood story. Coach Josh Peck had his Knights peaking at the right part of the season, and were riding a nine game winning streak for a reason. Running out of their settled offense, senior Nathan Swift (4a) found midfielder Nick Ankeny sweeping across the middle and he buried it from close range to put the Knights on the board. King’s Way’s goalie Conrad Littlefield (14 saves, 2gb) put together a solid 2nd quarter, and right before the half ends, Swift found Senior Captain Evan Ramirez (3g, 2gb) who blistered one from seven yards. Suddenly, it was a one goal game at halftime.
Cardinals assistant coach Ben York said, “We really didn’t change anything at halftime. We were getting decent looks. We weren’t playing particularly well yet we still had a one goal lead.” King’s Way Coach Peck seemed to make some adjustments, however, and the 2nd half found his Knights sliding a little earlier. The changes seemed to work, Littlefield continued strong play, and the Knights in white shut out Seattle Academy in the third quarter. Meanwhile on offense they continued their slow deliberate play, eliminated most turnovers, and when Captain Brian Prigmore (1g, 1a, 3gb) found Michael Johnson dancing on the crease, Johnson tied the game at threes.
Parker Woo (75% faceoff wins, 8gb) was dominant on faceoffs the whole game, and the second half was no exception. King’s Way patiently tracked him to the box though, and had success in causing post-faceoff turnovers that neutralized the faceoff win. Again behind GLE in their settled offense, Swift found Ramirez in the alley for a seven yard layup and suddenly the Cardinals were playing from behind. “The third quarter is one we’d obviously like to have back” said Coach York, “but we weren’t frustrated.” King’s Way’s Prigmore got free on the right side and buried a lefty unassisted and the 3rd quarter ended with the Knights up 5-3.
The final stanza had Seattle Academy starting with a beautiful clear by McCall which let Sam Brickman (1a, 3gb) find Aidan Lawry (2g, 3gb) to pull their team to within one, 5-4. With seven minutes left, the Swift to Ramirez train came to town again, and the Knights went up by two, 6-4. They slowed the pace even more and the refs were reluctant to put on the stall warning. McCall, (6 saves) anchored to the crease with only one usable leg, made several great saves, but couldn’t move much at all, the pain clearly too great. Did I mention he had a broken leg?
The Knights killed a lot of time and would have killed a lot more, except for an inadvertent and unforced step into the crease which gave the Cardinals the ball with 3:45 to go in the game. It was the first of four crucial errors by the Knights late in the game.
At this point, Riley Johnson (3g) took the comeback onto his shoulders. You remember Riley right? He had his jaw broken in two places in the first game of the season, but remained upbeat and positive, talking about how he hoped to be ready for the playoffs. Well ready he was, and he buried a wing shot a couple of inches below the crossbar to pull Seattle Academy to within one.
The Knights got the faceoff on a procedure call , and then, with the remaining time under two minutes were forced to keep the ball in the offensive box. But good defense and a braincramp combined to make the Knights run the ball out of the box, turning the ball over with time winding down. However, they rode hard and stole the ball on the subsequent clear, and were perfectly positioned to run off most, if not all, of the remaining time. But a poorly planned and executed pass winged out of bounds and the Cardinals got a gift. Seattle Academy then ran down and peppered the cage, but couldn’t put it in, as Littlefield made a nice stand. A Cardinals crease violation turned the ball over one more time to King’s way with about a minute remaining, and it looked like their lead was safe.
However, the last unforced error occurred, a 40-yard cross-field clearing pass, and was mishandled by the Knights. Three Cardinals swarmed and recovered the ground ball. The offense pressed the cage on the transition and fired a pass to David Funes down low. King’s Way sagged hard on him, he bumped it back out to Johnson who pinged the corner with the game-tying rocket, a time and room shot from 10 yards. Littlefield never had a chance. An unsuccessful King’s Way possession at the end of regulations left the score 6-6 as time expired.
Woo took the OT faceoff and fired just high on the fastbreak. Littlefield made a doorstop save but the Cardinals gained the rebound and reset the offense. Tommy Hadac started up top, drifted to the right and beat Littlefield low on the far pipe. And the celebration/heartbreak began.
Though an exciting game, there are also a couple of great backstories. This represented King’s Way’s first trip to the finals and their squad has only five seniors. They return most of their team and they are now battle tested. The lessons learned will be huge and the odds are these Knights will make it back here to capitalize on them.
Contrastingly, Seattle Academy has players who were in their third consecutive Championship game. While they obviously used that experience to win the trophy, there were another set of challenges that not everyone knew about. In the words of Coach York, “You’ve got to remember that this is a team made of kids that were rivals last year. We have kids from four schools, and they each have a natural animosity towards the other programs. I can’t say enough about how Coach Pattison was able to get them to work together this season. It was truly a brotherhood created from enemies.”
As the game ended, the Cardinal players quite naturally converged and piled onto Hadac. The student body flooded the field and piled on as well, and eventually the field was cleared and the championship trophy was presented. If you watch the video replay skip to the 1:48:31 mark and you’ll see the team celebrating in a huddle on the far sideline. If you watch nothing else, watch this: In the middle of the field there is a solo player, slowly limping across to join his teammates in their joyous moment. Two coaches quickly peel off and run to pick him up, then carry him to the front of the huddle, where finally, he could rest. Well played, Mr. McCall, well played.
Championship game photos available here all proceeds benefit local lacrosse charities.