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Will North Outlasts the Panthers

It’s true conditioning pays off, just ask the Williamsville North Spartans Boys Lacrosse team.

The Spartans were conditioning all last week and it came in handy Tuesday as they outlasted the No. 6 seed Sweet Home Panthers, scoring nine unanswered goals in the second half to win 14-4 in a Section VI Class B Boys Lacrosse quarterfinal matchup.

The No. 3 seed Spartans got off to a slow start, and they got in some trouble for it. After a penalty by North sophomore Josh Dziama, Sweet Home took advantage getting on the board first as senior Nate Faller found junior Matthew Culp. Will North responded as senior Robbie Moyer found junior Ryan Johnston in front of the net to tie the game.

The Spartans began to get their feet under them late in the first. Will North kept pressure in the Panthers zone as junior Adam Benton was on the door step but his shot went off the post.

Nevertheless, the momentum carried into the second quarter for the Spartans. Senior Joe Oliver found the back of the net to put Will North in front. Just 35 seconds after senior Reid Collins scored for the Spartans. Collins later found junior Juan Antonetty to give the Spartans the 4-1 lead.

Faller then got into a rhythm soon after, getting back-to-back goals to bring the Panthers within one.

Faller had two goals in what would turn out to be not only his last game for the Panthers, but also his head coach and grandfather’s, John.

John Faller has coached both lacrosse and football at Sweet Home for over 40 years, winning six sectional championships in lacrosse and eight in football. He also led the football team to two state titles in his tenure.

“I’m glad I got the opportunity to coach here at Sweet Home with all the coaches, players, teachers, administrators and everyone else. They’ve all been kind to me,” Faller said. “We’ve had a tough couple past few years but there are no guarantees in sports.”

Sophomore Owen Cooney found Johnston with 28.6 seconds on the clock to give Will North the 5-3 lead at the half.

As he did in the first half, Culp opened the second half scoring to bring to the Panthers within one, but that was as close as Sweet Home would get.

Will North head coach Andy Behm knew that his team would turn things around like the way they did.

“It was a slow start. They’re goalie made a couple of nice saves in the first half,” Behm said. “We needed halftime to regroup and I thought we came out in the second half and executed what we did in practice.”

Senior Matt Jeffries scored back-to-back goals for the Spartans. In the final minute of the third, both Collins and Anthony Trigilio found the back of the net to give Will North the 9-4 lead.

The Spartans took advantage of the tired Sweet Home team and kept pressing. Jefferies picked up the hat trick with 9:27 left in the game. Cooney then scored his only goal of the game 27 seconds later. Junior Brett Isler found classmate Griffen Green for the Spartans’ 12th goal of the game.

Jeffries was still going strong scoring two more times. He ended with five goals in the win.

The senior was proud of the way his team played on the big stage.

“We just really had a complete effort,” Jeffries said. “We beat them earlier in the season but we knew today it wasn’t going to be easy because it’s the playoffs.”

Jeffries will be will be playing D-II level lacrosse at St. John Fischer College next year.

According to his coach the attacker is the heart and soul of the team.

“Jeffries means just about everything to his team,” Behm said. “He’s really fun to watch. He goes 100 miles per hour. He’s a captain for a reason.”

For the Panthers, the same issues that had plagued them all season, plagued them Tuesday.

“We played a great first half, we were down by two. Then the game got away from us,” Faller said. “We had trouble with clearing the ball and ground balls, which have been our issues all season.”

Will North will play in the semifinals against No. 2 seed Niagara Wheatfield after the Falcons defeated North Tonawanda 24-1 on Tuesday.  The game will be Thursday at 5 p.m. at Niagara Wheatfield.

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