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Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Detroit Catholic Central wins state lacrosse championship after Detroit Catholic’s explosive comeback

By meerna Jun12,2024

Novi Detroit Catholic Central lacrosse players celebrate as coach Dave Wilson presents the MHSAA Division 1 state championship trophy. The Shamrocks won the state title with a come-from-behind 14-8 victory over Hartland on Saturday. (Photos: Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholics)

ANNA ARBOR – Lachlan Moffatt couldn’t remember the last time – if ever – Novi Detroit Catholic Central played a lacrosse game without scoring in the first quarter.

“I don’t think so, no. We are used to scoring a lot of goals,” junior Moffatt said. “It was a terrible start. I don’t think we could have started worse – zero goals in the first quarter – and we just jumped away. Our senior leaders took over at half-time and really understood us well.

Catholic Central (21-3-0) outshot Hartland 3-0 after the first 12 minutes, and the Eagles still held a 6-3 lead at halftime of the MHSAA Division 1 lacrosse final at the University of Michigan Saturday.

But it didn’t take long for Moffatt and the rest of the Shamrocks to respond. Taking the first possession, he led the attack downfield and shot the ball into the net just 13 seconds into the second half, which lit a fire in front of the goal.

“He’s the one we needed. That makes it 6-4 instead of 7-3, so that’s a really big deal,” coach David Wilson said. “It was a dynamic-changing moment.”

Catholic Central's Joey Ramirez takes the ball on the ground after a midfield skirmish causes a Hartland turnover.

Catholic Central’s Joey Ramirez takes the ball on the ground after a midfield skirmish causes a Hartland turnover.

“It meant everything,” Matt Aleva said. “It just turned the energy around here. That’s when we knew we were taking control.”

That’s exactly what happened. Catholic Central dominated the final two quarters, outscoring Hartland 11-2 in that stretch and winning the state championship by a score of 14-8.

After Hartland’s goal with 6:30 left in the third quarter made it 7-5, the Shamrocks scored the next seven goals in 12 minutes, getting three from Luke Zajdel, two from Aleva and singles from Connor Lukas and Moffatt.

“Our guys just flipped the switch and the game was on the line. The team means everything to us. We just knew we would fight or die for this team,” said Aleva, who scored both the tie-breaking goal and the eventual winner.

Wilson admitted he didn’t really know what caused the game change.

“I don’t even know what happened to them in the first half, but at half-time I told them: ‘Either you do it or you don’t, and you have to think about it.’ These are the last two quarters of Game 7,” he said. They just had to play a little better and I think they knew they could and they just did it.

Wilson also admitted that Hartland’s defense and goaltending surprised the Shamrocks early in the match.

Lachlan Moffatt runs into the Hartland net trying to score.  Moffatt scored three goals and added two assists, all during Catholic Central's second-half comeback.

Lachlan Moffatt runs into the Hartland net trying to score. Moffatt scored three goals and added two assists, all during Catholic Central’s second-half comeback.

“We played really well all year, but a bad first half was uncharacteristic,” Wilson said. “I thought Hartland did a great job to hold us to three goals in the first half, that’s quite an achievement. We really didn’t do well without the ball, but I think some guys just had to deal with it themselves and put the ball in the net.

Shamrocks had constant possession and rarely gave Hartland any chances to score, winning all 14 second-half draws. In the afternoon, Paddy Denk won 11 of 13 faceoffs and Nick Edwards won 10 of 12.

This is the second state lacrosse championship for Catholic Central, which also defeated arch rival Brother Rice from Birmingham in 2018 and won the final.

“I think people will remember this comeback,” Aleva said. “This team showed a lot of character. We were down by three goals at half-time and we just knew we had to turn it around and get some energy.

The state championship is Catholic Central's second in history.  The Shamrocks also defeated Birmingham Brother Rice to win the title in 2018, snapping a streak after the Warriors won their first 13 championships.

The state championship is Catholic Central’s second in history. The Shamrocks also defeated Birmingham Brother Rice to win the title in 2018, snapping a streak after the Warriors won their first 13 championships.

Saturday’s championship game was equally notable for who didn’t play in it: Hartland had ended defending champion Brother Rice’s season earlier, 11-10, in Thursday’s semifinals.

“It’s a shock. We don’t go on the field expecting to lose, especially considering the injuries. We’re trying to fight back, we’ve done it before, but we just didn’t get it done today,” coach Ajay Chawla said. “Unfortunately, it’s a loss and go home and we lost.”

Brother Rice (15-5) never led against Hartland, which built a two-goal lead, 6-4, at halftime and extended it to 10-6 early in the fourth quarter.

Rice went on the attack after goals by Theo Ley, Jayden Fortino and Nicholas Kovi, and with 5:39 left in the match the final score was 10-9. Hartland scored once, but Rice responded when Cash Papdelis got the rebound on a knee to make it 11-10 with 2:16 left.

The Warriors controlled the tie, but a swarm of Hartland defenders caused a turnover, allowing the Eagles to maintain possession for most of the remaining time, cutting the clock to 20 seconds. Brother Rice didn’t make a single shot on the short final possession.

– We had opportunities to score. Even later in the match, we had opportunities to equalize and take the lead, but we couldn’t put the ball in the net,” Chawla said. “Their goalkeeper made many saves. We hit a lot of balls into the goalkeeper’s stick, into the goalkeeper’s head or over the net. We had our chances on the pitch, but we didn’t take advantage of them.”

Birmingham Brother Rice's Ben Waechter passes the ball forward and several Hartland defenders give chase.  Hartland upset Brother Rice in the state semifinals 11-10.

Birmingham Brother Rice’s Ben Waechter passes the ball forward and several Hartland defenders give chase. Hartland upset Brother Rice in the state semifinals 11-10.

Brother Rice defeated Hartland 15-5 in April, but has since lost several key players to injuries. The Eagles defeated the Warriors in the 2022 state finals to become the first non-Catholic school to win a Division 1 state title.

“You have to give it to Hartland,” Chawla said. They came out, played hard and were better than us this year.

It was the first time since the Michigan High School Athletic Association began sponsoring lacrosse in 2005 that the Warriors were not one of the teams playing in the championship final. Since then, Brother Rice has won the state title every year except 2018 and 2022. (The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

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