In any discussion of powerhouse high school boys lacrosse programs in Suffolk County, Huntington is bound to be mentioned. For years, the team has been the toast of a competitive Division II. Although the Blue Devils graduated a bulk of their top players from last year’s state tournament team, they are still a force to be reckoned with, which makes East Hampton’s hard-fought 8-6 loss to them at home on April 2 a sign that the young Bonacker team is headed in the right direction.
East Hampton faced a 5-2 deficit heading into the fourth quarter and in that period, cut the Blue Devil lead to one goal on two occasions before succumbing to the final margin.
“I thought we played extremely hard and we fought them tooth and nail all over the field,” East Hampton head coach Mike Vitulli said. “We also did a really good job on ground balls.”
The Bonackers were impressive in several other categories that helped keep them in the game. East Hampton was 2 for 3 in man-up situations while shutting Huntington out from any extra-player advantages by playing a penalty-free game. East Hampton battled to cut the lead to 6-5 and then 7-6 in the fourth quarter but could not get over the hump.
“This was a game that we felt like we had a really good chance to win,” Vitulli said. “We kept coming back so there certainly wasn’t a lack of effort. Their goalie made some big saves and we missed some scoring opportunities. But we played a very disciplined game.”
In what was a good overall team effort, several individuals had strong performances as well. Ryan Shaw and Jake Beyer led the charge in scooping up ground balls, while Shaw led the team in scoring with three goals and an assist.
Goalie Mark Simmons, who has been establishing himself as one of the premier keepers in the division, came up with 16 saves while defensemen Jared Bowe and Nick Cocuzzo earned their coach’s praise by keeping Huntington’s top two players, Steven Mock and , in check. Bowe’s man-to-man defense against Mock was particularly impressive, considering Mock is one of the top offensive players in the division. He was held to just one goal and one assist.
East Hampton’s Tyler Brenneman, Matt Burns and Austin Heneveld chipped in on offense as well, each tallying one goal and one assist.
East Hampton had been scheduled to visit Babylon on Friday, April 4, but the game was cancelled due to poor field conditions from the rain. Vitulli said he is happy thus far with the effort of his young team and was pleased with a good showing against a team that has typically dominated his squad in the past.
“We moved the ball well on offense,” he said. “We’re still young so we’re coming together and it takes time. The real difference was that Huntington had some seniors playing on defense that did a good job. As good as we played, our lack of experience showed at times.”
But Vitulli said that if his team continues to be competitive against tough teams like Huntington, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to see favorable results.
“They’re starting to gain confidence that they can play with the teams in our league,” he said. “So, hopefully, we’ll be able to surprise some higher-seeded teams.”
East Hampton was scheduled to visit Hauppauge on Tuesday and will host Mercy tomorrow, April 10, at 4:30 p.m. The Bonackers will travel to Babylon on Saturday to make up last week’s rain out at 11 a.m.