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  • Greg Lederer

Cheshire Boys' Lacrosse Rallies Past Cadets, Claims Second Straight State Crown

For the second straight year, Cheshire boys' lacrosse brought home a state championship. Photo courtesy of Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

From left, Cheshire tri-captains Matt Jeffery, Ryan Grove, and Lucas Chymbor celebrate winning the Class L boys' lacrosse plaque with their teammates.

In Sunday's Class L final, Matt Jeffery netted the eventual game-winner with 3:52 against St. Joseph. He led CHS boys' lacrosse with four goals and three assists.

by Greg Lederer

Cheshire Sports Media

On Sunday, Cheshire High School boys’ lacrosse could feel momentum starting to drift against them in the Class L final at Sacred Heart University. The Rams had led by as many as four goals in the first half, but St. Joseph had rallied back to take a pair of one-goal leads in the fourth quarter.

With the championship hanging in the balance, senior Matt Jeffery stepped up for the Rams. In scoring his team’s last four goals, Jeffery twice tied the game and then netted the eventual game-winner with 3:52 left to propel Cheshire (top seed, 18-4) to a 13-12 victory over the Cadets (second seed, 15-6).

“Obviously, it feels amazing, but it is more important to be a state championship winner,” said Jeffery, who tallied a team-high four goals and three assists. “At the end of the day, the points don’t really matter. It is about winning the state championship. No matter how many goals I score, no matter how many assists I get, at the end of the day, it is how many games we won and did you win the state championship game? I’ll forever be able to say I was a state championship winner for my junior and senior year. I’ll be able to tell my kids that and help their motivation to realize it is not always about the points. It is not always about the goals. It is about winning. It feels good to win. It is not easy to win, but it feels good.” 

The state crown was the second in a row for the Rams, who beat Daniel Hand, 18-3, in last year’s Class M title game.

“We are a team all year that had to work for everything. We knew this opportunity wasn’t going to come easy,” explained Head Coach Mike Devine. “There are ups and downs to every season, but the goal for Cheshire lacrosse each year is to win a state championship. We put ourselves into that opportunity. We worked our butts off to earn that opportunity and I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”

The SJ fan section was pumped up after the Cadets used a 4-0 spurt to take their first lead, 11-10, with 8:04 remaining in Sunday’s game. Junior Sean Archibald, senior Alex Burbank, and freshman Paul Karafa opened the fourth quarter with consecutive goals.

“The main thing was to stay the course. We just wanted to be us. We wanted to make sure that we were just going to get the next ground ball, the next face-off, the next shot,” reflected Devine. “At the end, they didn’t make it easy on us. That is a tremendous team over there. The goalie (junior Mike Coletti) played unbelievable. They did a great job.”

While facing their first deficit, the Rams responded with a 3-1 run to end the game. With 6:42 remaining, Jeffery tied the contest with a charge to the net.

SJ retook the lead, 12-11, on a goal by sophomore Eli Restrepo with 5:31 left, but, Jeffery found the back of the net to tie the game again with 4:53 remaining.

Finally on a move through the middle with 3:52 left, Jeffery tallied his fourth and last goal from 24 yards out to snap the 12-12 tie.

“I feel like that is my job here. It is to get some motivation flowing,” stated Jeffery, a tri-captain with seniors Ryan Grove and Lucas Chymbor. “Coach trusted me to put the ball in the back of the net. He was like ‘You’ve got to take him, you’ve got to take him, he is getting tired.’ Even though I was getting tired, too, at the end of the game, I knew those times in the backyard (as a kid) when we were getting tired and pushing through it and hoping for that state championship game. Those are little moments that you need to fight through at the end of the day.”

“He is going to (the University of) Notre Dame for a reason,” added Devine, of Jeffery. “He is a tremendous player and one of the best to ever do it in a Cheshire jersey.”

The Rams had taken the lead under four minutes left, but they still had to hold off a comeback bid. The Cadets had an extended final possession, however, the Cheshire defense didn’t allow them to get the equalizer.

“In that last series, (Defensive) Coach (Quincy) Pecora told us that we’ve got to hunker down,’” recalled senior defensive mid-fielder Logan Kranyak. “‘This is the last possession for the state championship’ and that is all we needed to hear.”

In a clutch play, Chymbor caused a turnover and Kranyak scooped up the loose ball and got it to senior Adam Vernon, who ran down the clock behind the SJ net.

“That felt huge,” recalled Kranyak. “This senior class, we deserve it. We fight for each other so hard and all the underclassmen fight for us. When I got that (ball and) it came to me, I was running as hard as I can (and) as fast as I can. I saw the clock in the corner of my eye and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”

Devine was pleased with how his defensive unit of Chymbor, junior Colin Sheehan, sophomore Jacob Rivera, Kranyak, seniors Jack Suomala and Rocco Botti, and junior goalkeeper Joe Grenier finished up the season.

“I knew that the talent we had down there to make big stops in big moments,” said Devine. “I knew and had trust in my coaching staff and I had trust in my defensive guys to make that stop at the end. I’m super proud of them.”

After a final timeout, Jeffery held the ball for the final seconds and then the Rams stormed the field to celebrate the program’s fourth state crown.

“We just knew they (the Cadets) had it in them still and they weren’t going to give it up. It took a whole 48 minutes,” explained Jeffery. “Each day we were coming up to this game, we knew it was going to be a dog fight. We knew it wasn’t going to be like last year. For them keeping punching it back and giving us a game to play in, I’m so glad it ended up like that.”

The Rams always look to get out to fast starts and the Class L final was no exception. Junior Sean Grevelding tallied all of his four goals and an assist in the first quarter.

Grevelding netted the game’s first two goals and then assisted Vernon to put the Rams up 3-0.

“In the first quarter, it was great to start off hot. As a team, it was what we needed, but I wouldn’t say it was just me who played well in the first quarter, but the whole team around me,” stated Grevelding. “Coming off an injury, too, it made an easy for us to come back and really helped me as a teammate. So, that first quarter was really big to get that lead early because that St. Joseph team is very good and gave us a battle the whole time.”

After junior Jason Pagano scored for SJ, Grove won a face-off and found the back of the net in transition. Grevelding put in Cheshire’s next two goals, with assists coming from Jeffery and Vernon.

SJ senior James Corry converted with 1:12 left in the first quarter, but CHS still led 6-3.

“It is the goal to always keep building (a lead),” said Devine. “We want to come out fast to start, but we knew that St. Joseph wasn’t going to go away. That is a heck of a team that is well coached and those kids fight for everything. I’m super proud of our group for staying the course, not getting on each other, and just being great kids and just being resilient.”

Just 1:17 into the second quarter, freshman Grant Paul was pushed in the back on a shot, but still sent the ball into the net.

The Rams took an 8-4 lead, when Vernon scored on a feed from Jeffery. The Cadets countered with a goal from Corry, cutting the deficit to 8-5 at halftime.

Cheshire outshot SJ, however, Coletti (17 saves) made clutch plays in net.

The Cadets kicked off the second half with goals from Corry and Burbank to cut the deficit to 8-7, but Cheshire answered with Vernon’s third goal. Jeffery picked up his third assist on Vernon’s tally and he scored his first goal to propel the Rams to a 10-7 advantage.

With 21.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter, SJ senior Jonathan Vitka sent a shot into the net.

The Cadets built momentum into taking the lead twice in the fourth, but the Rams were able to battle back to win the championship.

In winning face-offs down the stretch, Grove helped fuel the rally. He controlled 21 of 28 opportunities overall.

“Grove has been one of the top face-off guys in the state all year. When we went down, we knew that we had confidence in him to get the ball for us,” reflected Devine. “To see him shine on the field where he will play college lacrosse (at SHU) was a great feeling.”

Grenier posted six saves in the win.

“Joe has really grown into an All-State and All-Conference (Southern Connecticut Conference) player this year,” said Devine. “He has stepped into the role of being a full-time starter and that is not easy. I’m super excited that we have him for another year. He just continues a tradition of really good goalies in our program.”

Sunday’s game was emotional for nine seniors, who ended their Cheshire careers with a second straight state crown. Jeffery, Chymbor, Grove, Botti, Kranyak, Tegan Danaher, Drew DePodesta, Suomala, and Vernon developed chemistry from playing in youth up through high school.

“Graduating with this (back-to-back state titles) just feels awesome,” stated Kranyak. “It’s something all never forget. It’s something I have forever. No one can take this away from us and (it is something) I’m forever grateful for.”

“These (senior) guys have bought into everything that I've asked and everything we’ve asked as a program,” added Devine. “The results are showing now.”

Ryan Grove controlled 21 of 28 face-offs in the Class L final. He also scored a goal.

In the first quarter against St. Joseph, Sean Grevelding posted four goals and an assist. In this clip, he scores on a pass from Adam Vernon.

From left, tri-captains Matt Jeffery, Ryan Grove, and Lucas Chymbor and CHS boys' lacrosse head coach Mike Devine pose with the Class L plaque. Photo by Greg Lederer.

After Cheshire boys' lacrosse won the Class L title, Logan Kranyak celebrated with trainer Kelly Ranalli, among others. Photo by Greg Lederer.

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