Canisius-bound senior Matt Borgese (17) netted two goals in Hamburg's loss to Victor in the Far West Regionals. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
This time last spring, Jerry Severino’s boys lacrosse program won a regional title for just the second time in school history, earning a trip to the state semifinals.
To make a return to the state tournament, Hamburg would have to repeat as sectional champions.
It would take a victory over a well-known foe in Niagara-Wheatfield to do it, but the Bulldogs were more than up for the challenge.
Hamburg defeated the Falcons, 10-9, in the Class B Section VI championship game at All High Stadium on May 27.
The win gave top-seeded Hamburg its seventh sectional title in eight seasons.
The Bulldogs’ only loss during that stretch came to Niagara-Wheatfield in the 2011 championship game.
Hamburg would move on to play Victor of Section V in the Far West Regionals on May 31 again at All High, losing its bid for a consecutive trip to the state semifinals in a 10-8 loss.
Against Wheatfield in the sectional final, Hamburg held a one-goal lead late in the game when Matt Borgese’s shot from 10-yards out went over the Wheatfield goaltender’s shoulder to make it a 10-8 game with 4:28 remaining.
The Falcons answered back with a goal by Syracuse-bound Brennan Ferguson (three goals) to pull back within one with just over two minutes left in regulation.
Niagara-Wheatfield had three opportunities at the end of the game to take the contest into overtime, turning the ball over each time.
“Our defense came out to play. They played great the whole game,” said Hamburg sophomore Evan Hollfelder. “Jordan Kuss played super-good. He made a lot of saves. The first half, our offense wasn’t really clicking. But in the second half, we came out to play.”
In just his second game back from an injury that sidelined him for eight games, Hollfelder notched four points, including three goals for the Bulldogs.
Matt Borgese and Sam Cilano added three points each, with two goals apiece, and Jim Duffy helped on three goals.
Lucas Shafer, Jason Chiodo and Brendan Ryan each scored a goal in the victory.
“I think one of the best things about our team is that we’re so spread out,” said Borgese, a senior who is headed to Canisius College to continue his lacrosse career in the fall.
“Our entire offensive line can put it in the net. I think that’s what really put us aside from them because no matter who they covered, we had another person to go to.”
The Bulldogs were more than competitive versus Victor in the regional title game on Saturday. They even had total control of the game at one point.
“We were ahead for quite a while, early, and we played them even the rest of the way,” Severino said. “When it’s a two-goal victory with probably 75-percent draw on their part, that says we did all right when we had the ball. But there were a lot of unsettled goals in that first half that really sealed it for them.”
Shafer led all scorers with four goals. Borgese scored twice in his final high school game and sophomore Evan Hollfelder added two goals, as well.
Shafer went on a scoring tear early on, netting three consecutive goals to put Hamburg up 3-1 in the beginning of the second quarter.
Hamburg held the largest lead of the game midway through the second. Victor made it a one-goal game before Borgese and Hollfelder goals put Hamburg up 5-2.
But the half was far from over with as the two teams combined for 10 second quarter points.
Victor stormed back into the game by scoring six of the next seven goals to head into the half with an 8-6 lead.
Hollfelder put Hamburg on the board first in the second half before Max Lambert (three goals) responded to put Victor back up two.
Shafer helped the Bulldogs get back within one with a third quarter goal, making it a 9-8 game.
Jordan Kuss made one his handful of highlight-reel-worthy saves to keep his Bulldogs in the game, stopping a shot from point blank range in the fourth quarter for Hamburg to stay within striking distance.
The Bulldogs threatened to tie the game with a three-minute possession following the save. Although Victor gave Hamburg a man-up advantage after being penalized, the Bulldogs were unable to tie the game.
“Being patient early in the fourth quarter, and all those possessions, I think that’s the right way to go,” Severino said about holding the ball for three minutes down one goal at the end of the game. “We just didn’t capitalize when we had those opportunities.”
Victor capitalized on Hamburg’s empty possession when Dan Barrow gave his team a two-goal cushion with under four minutes left, where the scored remained for the rest of the contest.