Boys’ lacrosse: Athens Drive 12, Middle Creek 5:
Published: Apr 17, 2012 10:55 PM
Modified: Apr 17, 2012 10:56 PM
APEX - Athens Drive tasted playoff success for the first time in program history last season, and the Jaguars are hungry for a second helping as the boys’ lacrosse season winds down.
The best recipe, said Jaguars coach James Cornicelli, is to approach each of these final games as the playoffs.
Athens, ranked No. 4 in the state by laxpower.com and No. 2 in the N&O Triangle rankings, started nibbling away with a 12-5 win at Middle Creek on Friday night.
The Jaguars (8-1, 8-1) have a lot to look forward to this season – like evening its record against Cardinal Gibbons, which would force a tie for the Conference 2 lead.
But Cornicelli is telling Athens to not get too far ahead of itself with playoffs still three weeks away.
“Right now our goal is to stay in control of our destiny,” said Cornicelli. “We would love to be in a great position when it comes to Cardinal Gibbons, but we have Apex, a tremendous team, Holly Springs, a tremendous team. Green Hope, they’re going to be tough as well – every game in this conference is difficult.”
Another half to the Jaguars’ mindset is to be the aggressor – evident against Middle Creek (4-5, 4-5) as Athens jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first eight minutes.
“He’s put into our heads that we’ve got to be aggressive on everything and we can’t come out slow against any team,” said senior Daniel Hughey, who had a game-high four goals.
That was more than enough cushion given Athens’ defense. The Mustangs – led by Ben Doetzer’s two goals and two assists – were unable to get many clean looks at the net.
“Their slides were there, and we just didn’t move the ball well. We drew the slide well but we didn’t move it,” Middle Creek coach Paul Robison said. “We were just trying to go through too many people.”
Cornicelli credited John Hughey, Cam Davis and Nick Nesbitt for their work on defense, which has stood out all year.
“They’re very physical, they’re very good athletes and they’re very good lacrosse players. We stress fundamentals here in a big way. They dictate where the offense is going to go rather than let the offense dictate to them,” Cornicelli said.
The Jaguars also got three goals from John Padden, two from Daniel Haupt and one apiece from Jake Hargrove, Scott Baird and Scott Frider. Middle Creek also got one goal apiece from Alex Kaminski, Justin Medwar and Graham Southwick.
“When these guys are moving the ball quickly, they’re very difficult to stop. We’ve got a lot of great athletes,” Cornicelli said.
Middle Creek still has an opportunity ahead as well. Ideally, the Mustangs make it to the postseason if they can maintain a .500 record overall; but with three of five remaining games against teams ranked in the state’s top 10, that won’t come easy.