WARREN TWP. — All it took was an eight-minute stretch for the Hunterdon Central High School boys lacrosse team to give itself enough breathing room for a much-needed victory on Wednesday afternoon.
After seeing the game get tied up less than a minute into the second quarter, the young Red Devils went to work, scoring the next four goals to build a 6-2 halftime lead that they wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 10-7 victory over Watchung Hills.
Sophomore Ben Coakley led the way with a three goals and an assist and five other Hunterdon Central (1-2) players scored at least one goal. Tim Cuccio and Ryan Dunleavy each found the back of the net twice for the Red Devils, who led 8-4 after three quarters and held off a furious late rally by Watchung Hills (1-2).
“The first half, we played the type of lacrosse we want to play. With us, with the young team we have, it’s all about consistency,” Hunterdon Central Mike Vergalito said. “If we can get ourselves to play four quarters of lacrosse, we can hang and we can stay in games against good teams. When we have that yo-yo affect going, we give up goals and let teams get back in the game against us.”
Ryan Cunningham scored four goals – including three in the final 3:04 of the fourth quarter – to lead Watchung Hills, but the deficit was too great before he finally got the Warriors offense going.
“We can’t have that yo-yo affect, but we have to be happy with a win,” Vergalito said. “Watchung Hills is a good team, so any win is a good win.”
Coakley got the Hunterdon Central offense going less than three minutes into the contest, intercepting a clearing pass and eluding the defense for the goal at 9:29 of the first quarter. His second goal of the game, off a Ryan Darrow pass inside the box, pushed the lead up to 7-3 and an unassisted tally at 5:48 of the fourth quarter made it 10-5.
“We just moved the ball around well and we were patient on offense,” Coakley said. “This was a good win; we needed this one. We’re 1-2 now and it’s good to get a win.”
The duo of Nick Collevechio and Joel Given – who each played a half – combined to make 11 saves for Hunterdon Central. Collevechio came up with sterling save in the second quarter, robbing Cunningham of what looked like a sure goal on the doorstep.
Watchung Hills coach Jamie Lovejoy said that if his squad had played the first three quarters of the game like they did the fourth, a different result might have come out of it.
“Central did a good job of executing on their possessions and we didn’t,” Lovejoy said.
“We had a tough time in our man-up situations and we coughed up some transition opportunities and you’re not going to be effective if you don’t play four quarters of lacrosse and today we played one.”
Vergalito noted that winning a road game against a conference opponent was key, especially this early in the season, but his young squad still has some work to do.
“We capitalized by scoring and that’s big for a young team; learning how to execute and being smart with the ball,” he said.
“Hopefully we’re moving in the right direction. We’re staying positive as a coaching staff and the more players that score for us, the better.”