CIAC BOYS LACROSSE: Cheshire routs Guilford; another SCC rival awaits in Class M title game

CHESHIRE — Cheshire boys lacrosse is back in the state finals for the first time since 2017 and seeking its first state crown since 2010 with another lopsided state tournament win.

The No. 1 Rams defeated No. 4 Guilford 13-3 in the Class M semifinals at Alumni Field on Friday night. They will play another Southern Connecticut Conference rival, No. 3 Daniel Hand, for the title at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Cheshire, winner of eight in a row, also defeated Guilford by 10 goals during the regular season on April 25 by an almost identical count of 14-4.

In Friday’s postseason rematch, Cheshire junior Adam Vernon had a game-high four goals and Ben Thompson and Charles Kurtz had hat tricks. Kurtz also added five assists.

“It was a team effort today,” Kurtz said. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first quarter. We had a game plan in the second half to put up more goals than we did in the first half and, overall, we meshed really well today.”

The Rams (18-3) scored on their first shot of the game and never looked back. Cheshire led Guilford (10-9) 5-0 at the half.

The hosts took an instant 1-0 lead just 48 seconds in, with Vernon scoring off of an assist from Kurtz. Vernon took the ball right-center of the net from 15 yards, took a pair of steps and whipped it in through a steady rain that fell through the first six minutes of action.

The rain quickly subsided and the rest of the game had clear weather. Prospects, however, did not brighten for Guilford.

“It set the tone,” Kurtz said of the first-minute goal. “Coach (Mike) Devine drew up something on the board because they threw something different at us. We came out and credit to coach for getting the boys and the offense moving.”

Thompson made it 2-0 at the 6:33 mark. He carved out some space to the left of the goal and beat Guilford netminder Jacob Schlessel (12 saves) to his right.

Kurtz set up Cheshire’s third goal at the 4:28 mark of the first quarter, dishing to Matt Jeffrey (2 goals, assist) left of the net. Jeffrey fired it in from close range as the Rams’ lead expanded to 3-0.

Thanks to a Guilford crosscheck penalty, the Rams started the second quarter with a man advantage. Just 44 seconds in, Jeffrey netted his second goal of the game with a wide open path to the goal and converted low to the goalie’s left for the score. He was assisted by sophomore Sean Grevelding (goal, 2 assists).

Jeffrey, a Notre Dame commit, collected his first assist of the game with a dish to Thompson as the Rams scored a man down with 2:42 left in the second quarter to go up 5-0.

Cheshire scored three goals in the first three minutes of the second half to put away any thoughts of a Guilford comeback.

The second half started the same way as the first, a goal by Vernon and an assist by Kurtz in the opening minute of the third. Just 23 seconds later, Krutz put in an unassisted tally and then assisted on Vernon’s third goal of the game a minute after that as Cheshire’s lead expanded to 8-0.

“Stats are secondary to Charles,” Devine said. “He’s a great leader for us and has been pushing our guys since the winter in the weight room. He wants to be great and he wants to leave a legacy here. He wants to finish the job and we are going to be ready for it.”

Near the midway mark of the of the third quarter, Thompson completed his hat trick with an assist from Grevelding for a 9-0 lead.

Guilford finally scored its first goal off the game with 5:53 left in the third quarter as Sean Filley put one in off of an assist from Ryan Franchi.

Kurtz extended his big game with a big bounce right in front of the Guilford goal to make it 10-1.

Later in the third, Kurtz registered his fifth assist with a dish to Grevelding, then scored his third goal of the game at the third-quarter horn. The unassisted score put the Rams up 12-1 after three.

Cheshire went up 13-1 when Vernon scored his fourth goal of the game four minutes into the fourth quarter with an assist from Thompson.

With a running clock midway though the fourth, Tyler Hilgert and William Petrick scored for Guilford, and that made it 13-3.

Cheshire goalie Connor Atwater, the SCC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, collected nine saves in the victory.

“He’s under-appreciated in the state,” Devine said of Atwater. “He’s a great goalie and a hard-working kid, and our defense gains confidence around him. If they get beat, they have a standout goalie that can bail them out.”

Cheshire posted its first two wins of the tournament in blowout fashion, beating Newington 25-4 in the and then Joel Barlow 19-7.

On Sunday, the Rams will make their fourth-ever state final appearance. The Rams won state titles in 2002 and 2010. They lost in the title game in 2017.

“This is a fantastic achievement, but we have our eyes on Hand and we will be prepared for Hand because they are a great team,” Devine said. “They are well coached and you have to be ready for a battle. We know them and they know us. It’s going to be a great game with a great atmosphere. We will have our boys ready.”

This spring, Cheshire won its first SCC Tournament title since 2010 and look to repeat that feat in states.

“Being in the finals means everything and you dream about it as a kid,” Kurtz said. “But we don’t just want to be there. We want to take over Class M and win that. It’s tough to beat a team three times but our coaches will prepare us like they do for every single opponent and we will have a good game plan and we are hoping to catch a win.”

Cheshire defeated Hand 14-9 in the regular season and then won 15-5 in the SCC semifinals.

“This is is great for the town and the program,” Devine said. “The kids have put in a lot of time and its a family here. This is great for the entire program.”


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