Greenwich boys lacrosse wins thriller at Ridgefield, 8-7

Most classic games are remembered by the outcome or what happened on the final play; a handful are remembered for the nasty conditions they were played in; and even fewer are remembered as a prelude to another game later in the season.

Very rarely does a contest achieve all three feats at once, but Tuesday afternoon’s boys lacrosse battle between Ridgefield and Greenwich did, spanning four overtimes and a torrential rain storm and becoming one of the most memorable early season FCIAC games ever.

By the time Greenwich’s Decker Curran beat Ridgefield goalie Brendan Winne for the game-winning goal with 26.8 seconds left in the fourth overtime, it was evident to everyone — players, coaches, and fans; all soaked from almost three hours of constant rain — that this was more than just an ordinary lacrosse game.

“We haven’t had one like this as long as I’ve been here,” said Ridgefield head coach Roy Colsey. “We have too many games where we’re [ahead by a large margin and] subbing at halftime; this was a great game and it will help both teams this season.

“I was proud of my guys for not quitting,” he added. “This what you want: One chance away from winning or losing the game.”

Curran’s shot came from a sharp, crossing assist from Jamie Paradise following a loose ball with under 40 seconds to play in the fourth overtime — one of many ground ball opportunities that caused bodies to hit the artificial turf at Tiger Hollow throughout the contest.

“When you get in a game like that, and it’s so evenly matched, the guys want to have a perfect shot and the pressure builds,” said Greenwich head coach Scott Bulkley. “Of course the game was going to end in transition or on a broken play like the last one…”

No love is lost between the Cardinals (3-0) and Tigers (1-1), who last met in the 2013 FCIAC semifinals — a game that the Cardinals won, 6-5, by dominating the face-off circle en route to an upset and a trip to the conference championship game.

On Tuesday, the script was flipped as Ridgefield’s Matt Philbin won 16 of 22 draws for the Tigers, who failed to get things going on offense despite controlling time of possession and shots on goal.

“My focus is on the offense,” Colsey said. “We won the defense battle; we won the face-off battle. But we were just terrible on offense.

“An 8-7 quadruple overtime is all well and good but we had so many more chances than them to score and we didn’t get the job done,” he added. “My focus and my concern is that we blew it on offense a million times.”

Winne allowed the Cardinals to take a 4-1 lead in the first quarter but then buckled down, denying a three-on-one fastbreak opportunity late in the first and coming up with another huge save midway through the second.

Winne and Philbin helped the Tigers climb back into the contest, along with a gritty performance from the team’s three long-pole defenders — Kean Quick, Paul Volante and Brian McGuire — who were ferocious on loose balls at the end of regulation.

“That defense, that goalie and that face-off guy shouldn’t be sitting in the locker room with the loss the way they played,” Colsey said.

“It was a tale of last year’s FCIACs, except we won almost every face-off,” he added. “Philbin was great, and that’s all the more reason why we should have been able to score.”

Senior Will Bonaparte cut the Greenwich lead to 4-2 before the end of one, but the Tigers were never ahead other than an early 1-0 lead and never scored more than two goals in any quarter — a week after unloading 21 goals on Fairfield Ludlowe in the season opener.

“It was either bad shooting or a combination of bad shooting and bad decisions,” said Colsey of his offense’s woes. “Part of it was great defense, and I give them [the Cardinals] a lot of credit — they played a hell of a game.”

Senior Dylan Maher finished with a pair of goals, while Nick Esemplare, Chad Krys and Dan Ohrem each had one for Ridgefield.

With Greenwich ahead 7-6 in the fourth quarter, Simon Mathias scored the game-tying goal for Ridgefield with 2:04 remaining. With the ball on the ground again and bodies piling up, Mathias was able to scoop it up and beat Greenwich goalie Tommy Rogan for an unassisted score.

Like his counterpart Winne, Rogan made big stop after big stop throughout the contest. He deflected Esemplare’s attempt with under 30 seconds to play in regulation and then denied Maher’s point-blank shot in the second overtime.

Rogan wasn’t done, though. Mathias couldn’t get a low shot past him in the third overtime, and Peter Dearth failed to beat him in the final overtime period, resulting in a change of possession that eventually led to Curran’s game winner.

“Tommy’s a gamer,” said Bulkley. “He made some huge saves; some unbelievable saves.”

While the Tigers’ attack was thwarted by Rogan, the team really struggled in the midfield area, turning the ball over at several key moments down the stretch in regulation and again in overtime, as well as in the first half.

What role the weather played, Colsey wouldn’t say, but he acknowledged that he was surprised at the play in the midfield.

“It’s on our players to do what they do,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about it and I don’t expect it to happen like that again, but we didn’t do a good job executing.”

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