SPARTA, NJ - For a little more than 46 minutes of lacrosse, Vernon’s Kyle McCullough had yet to really make his mark on Friday afternoon’s game at Pope John, with only one goal to his credit. But over the last 106 seconds, not only did he impact the game: he won it for the Vikings.
With the game tied up at ten, the senior attacker took a pretty feed in transition from teammate Brian Mills, split a pair of Pope John (4-6, 3-5 Rizk Division) defenders, then effortlessly converted from right outside the goalie’s crease, scoring the decisive goal with only fourteen ticks on the clock.
The fast break opportunity was created by an incredible save by Viking goalie Anthony Musciotto, who denied Lions attacker Billy Van Dyke on a breakaway, and had the presence of mind to start the transition offense for his own team.
“I just started running downfield right after the save,” explained McCullough detailing the hectic sequence that led to his deciding tally, “I knew I had to make a move to get by two guys and the rest was easy.”
Only a minute and 22 seconds earlier, McCullough connected with the back of the net from the left wing, shooting a high laser into the near side upper corner, erasing a 10-9 Pope John lead.
In the early stages, it appeared the Sparta parochial school would cruise to a rather easy victory. Only 19 seconds passed until speedy Pope John attacker Davis Stoner put the home team on the board. After winning the ensuing face-off, Van Dyke needed only 33 more seconds to quickly double the Pope John lead.
Following another Stoner goal three minutes later, Vernon (7-5, 4-4 Rizk Division) responded with a pair of goals from Dalton Rimmer. At exactly the three minute mark, Pope John’s Frank Polyak entered the box score with a runner from a left angle. However, Mills won the following faceoff, sprinted downfield, and caught the Lions in a defensive lapse, allowing him to answer only nine seconds later. Each team traded goals in the final thirty seconds to cap a wild 5-4 first frame.
The defense tightened up in the middle two periods, with only five goals being scored in comparison to the nine in the first. The visitors from the northernmost high school in New Jersey knotted the score at six a piece at the 5:28 mark of the third via a Travis Pappas goal. Neither squad would score for the remainder of the quarter.
Pappas and Stoner would exchange goals in the early goings of the fourth quarter, and at the 4:49 mark, McCullough would equalize a Sean Ferguson goal from two minutes earlier. After a Van Dyke goal with 1:53 to play, Pope John enjoyed a 10-9 lead, one that would set up McCullough’s outburst at the end.
With the victory, Vernon defeated its in-county and Rizk Division rival a second consecutive season, an achievement that means a lot to the Vikings senior class.
“It’s a great feeling for all of us (seniors) to go get this one today. We want to keep it going and keep playing as long we can,” noted McCullough afterward.
Each team’s goalie played a fine game in between the pipes. Musciotto turned away 16 Lions shots, while Pope John keeper Davin LaIacoma denied 10 Vernon shots on net.
The box score:
Vernon (7-5): 4 2 1 4- 11
Pope John (4-6): 5 1 1 3- 10
Goals: Vernon 11 (Travis Pappas 5, Kyle McCullough 3, Dalton Rimmer 2, Brian Mills.) Pope John 10 (Davis Stoner 3, Billy Van Dyke 3, Sean Ferguson, Frank Polyak, Jack Sember.)
Assists: Vernon 11 (Dalton Rimmer 4, Brian Mills 4, Jared Sparta 2, Kyle McCullough.) Pope John 2 (Davis Stoner 2.)
Halftime Score: Vernon 6, Pope John 6
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