CLARK, NJ — Tied 3-3 at the half of their Union County Tournament (UCT) Final Westfield and Summit High School Boys Varsity Lacrosse teams battled for the next 23 minutes of game-clock to see the Hilltoppers take a 6-4 lead, putting themselves just 60 seconds away from the UCT title.
A lacrosse half is 24 minutes long and, in this case, the final minute of this contest — the 24th minute — changed everything.
Up by two and with the ball, Summit turned it over and saw Nick Bond of the Blue Devils halve the advantage with 34.9 seconds left. Winning the next face-off, the Hilltoppers looked certain to run the clock out, but turned it over again.
Just 15 seconds remained and the ball wound up in the stick of Westfield goalie Toby Burgdorf, who slung the ball down field in the general direction of the Summit goal — pretty much a lacrosse version of a football "Hail Mary" pass.
High in the air but losing the battle to gravity, the ball appeared to deflect off something as it fell earthward, landing just outside the Summit goal crease, then bouncing off the turf, appearing to hit just under the crossbar, and falling just in front of the goal line.
The was a brief moment of mass confusion, until two black and white uniformed arms thrust in the air signaling a goal. The game was tied, 6-6.
Stunned by a goal scored in the final 15 seconds, by the opposing team's goalie, from essentially his own crease, both teams geared up for overtime.
Both had possession in the first — and the second — extra session. It looked certain they were headed for third overtime, when Blue Devil Devon McLane drilled a low shot past Teddy Cranley with just 1.5 seconds left in the period.
Westfield 7, Summit 6 was the final score, sending the Blue Devils into a flurry of celebration and stunning the Hilltoppers, who had seemed to have a clear edge in play on that day.
The Blue Devils led 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 in the first half, with all three goals coming off the stick of Brendon Leuthold. Summit answered with tallies from senior captain Evan Kulpan, junior Corey McManus and senior captain Andrew Chase.
Kulpan was the catalyst in the second half, notching his second and third goals of the game in the third quarter, and his fourth at the 8:39 mark of the final frame. Westfield managed a lone marker from James Bohlinger.
"Credit to Westfield for playing hard all the way to the end," said Summit Head Coach Jim Davidson. "They made the plays and we didn't. We have to regroup. learn from it and get better."
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