Defending district champion Avon Grove takes opener

By James Boyle

It was the hard-fought, physical game anyone would have expected from two quality opponents Friday night as defending District 1 champion Avon Grove outlasted host Upper Dublin team, 12-9, to open the PIAA boys’ lacrosse season.

A 6-1 run by the Red Devils to close the first half turned the momentum after the Cards had taken a 5-1 first-quarter lead. Senior Tanner Peck (four goals) scored with 25 seconds left in the half to cap the surge and put his team ahead for good.

“[The goal was] big. Definitely pretty big,” Peck said. “Going into half it’s just a big morale booster, confidence booster. And then with that, we got the first goal in the second half too. So that’s just kind of like one after another. It just hyped the team up and we were ready to play.”\

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Bryce Reid and Bo Kush added two goals apiece for Avon Grove, and goalie Will Schreiner made 10 saves.

Michael Mullen led the Cardinals in scoring with three goals, and Michael Sowers added two of his own, including a flashy behind-the-back goal that put his team up by one in the second quarter. He also had two assists.

“Coming in we knew they were going to be a good team,” Peck said. “But we were also confident. We had a good week of practice, good pre-practice yesterday. Coming in confident in the fact that we could beat them but not underestimating them to the point where we come out sloppy and don’t play them hard.”

The Red Devils certainly weren’t playing sloppy at the start of the game, but that didn’t stop the Upper Dublin from taking an early 3-1 lead.

“At points we looked great,” Upper Dublin head coach JP Banks said. “There’s stuff we need to tighten up. But from looking where we are in March, we’re always trying to improve and be better by May. I’m happy with a lot of the things you saw out there tonight.”

The Cardinals, ranked No. 10 by, is starting seven sophomores, all of whom had key roles last year when they reached the District 1 quarterfinals. Banks said the team must continue to work hard and improve.

“Right now, the thing we gotta focus on is Tuesday against Wissahickon, they’re gunning for us,” he said. “In the long run, yeah we can all dream about what we can all do. Right now we just want to take care of this season and see where we can go.”

The Red Devils, ranked No. 4 by, embrace their high expectations.

“We have great expectations for the year. We wanted to make sure we lived up to them,” Avon Grove’s Eric Russo (two goals, one assist) said. “We can’t believe in all the hype of preseason rankings. So the whole team had to come out and give it our all. We had to show people we’re for real.”

Avon Grove, a more experienced team than a year ago, is coming off its first district title in program history. Repeating that goal won’t be an easy one, but the first test is over.

“We’ll see. We’ve got some high expectations as a team, especially coming off of last season,” Peck said. “Got about 17 seniors or so that are going to be graduating, so this is the last chance to make something happen, make some history at Avon Grove.”

Avon Grove 12, Upper Dublin 9
Avon Grove 3-4-4-1 – 12
Upper Dublin 5-1-2-1- -9

Avon Grove
Tanner Peck 4g
Bryce Reid 2g 1a
Ryan Cook 1g 1a
Beau Kush 2g 1a
Eric Russo 2g 2a
Steven Cyron 1 g
Matt Schreiner 10 saves

Upper Dublin
Michael Sowers 2g 2a
Michael Mullen 3G 1a
Ryan Siwinski 1g 1a
Nick Vernacchio 2g 1a
Evan Scott 1g
Bobby McPeake 4 saves

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