Before this game began, there was the strong suspicion that Delbarton vs. Ridgewood could wind up being a preview for a Tournament of Champions game in June.
By the time the game finally came to a close, June wasn't feeling so far away.
Senior attackman Garcia Logan gathered a ground ball behind the cage off a missed shot, cut to the low left wing for whatever look he could create before a defender pounced and he ripped a 10-yard shot with 2:39 to go in the fifth overtime to lift Ridgewood to a 5-4 victory in an instant classic Saturday afternoon in Ridgewood.
Ridgewood, No. 3 in The MSG Varsity New Jersey Top 15, snapped a 13-game losing streak to No. 4 Delbarton that began with the Green Wave's 6-4 win over Ridgewood in the 2002 state championship game. The Maroons had won their regular-season clash that year.
Fittingly, the decisive play Saturday was triggered by one of many outstanding saves from Ridgewood junior goalie Noah Pounds, and also preceded by a tough save by Delbarton junior goalie John Schisler. Both opened their seasons, not as if they'd already had a full complement of regular-season games under their belts, but as if neither had ever left the goal mouth for even a glass of water since 2011.
It was a day of gritty defensive stances, smart checks and tough ground balls, and both goalies highlighted the intense action with their poise under fire.
"Noah is a pretty remarkable player," Logan said. That final save was Pounds' 13th of the game, while Schisler finished with nine. "He makes saves you don't even think are possible."
Same went for Logan's goal. Not impossible because it was a particularly difficult shot or over any doubt about Logan's ability (20 goals last season), but simply because both teams' defenses were just so dedicated to protecting their space and each goalie was so sharp.
Blake Feagles offered up the first shot following Pounds' save in the fifth OT, and Schisler stopped it, but could not keep it in his stick. Max Luing charged through the crease, scooped it up a few feet from Schisler and unloaded. It sailed just high of the crossbar, but Logan retrieved it and darted topside without hesitation.
"I came around, curled up to increase my angle a little bit--something we go over every day in practice--and I just let it go," Logan said. "But my goal doesn't count any more than any of the other ones. It was a team effort and that's all that matters."
Senior attackman Connor O'Shea was the big gun for Ridgewood prior to Logan's heroics, sinking three goals and also assisting on one to pace the offense. He'd connected twice in the second quarter to knot the game at 2-2, assisted Jack Allard 11:58 into the third quarter for a 3-2 edge and opened a 4-2 lead 3:09 later by converting a pass by Pete Reuter.
"I got some good looks in the beginning, but we all worked hard, we all played hard," O'Shea said. "It was a long fight here today, but we weren't leaving this field without a W."
That fierce determination wasn't so evident when Delbarton banged in two goals in the first 4:41--one each by Kenny Kieran and Sean Donnelly--to seize early control. It all started with the sterling faceoff work of Delbarton junior Austin Williams, who won all three draws in the first quarter and claimed 12 of 15 for the game.
Williams' domination was an early highlight, but so was the goaltending of Pounds, who turned away four shots in that first quarter to raise the confidence of his defenders. They settled down in their zone scheme following that initial burst and suddenly switched into lockdown mode.
"I have to give all the credit to my defense," Pounds said. "The whole day they played their butts off. I couldn't say anything better about this team and how well we played. I'm speechless."
The goalie's dad, Ridgewood head coach Mike Pounds, was not when it came to discussing the play of Noah and the numerous defensemen who played pivotal roles. Tripp Telesco, Ryan Ghaderi , Pete Loparo and pole Dylan Logan (Garcia's cousin) form the core of this rugged defense, though Pounds subbed liberally among his shortsticks.
"Noah made every save he could make and then some and the defense just did a great job. They gave him good looks at the ball," Mike Pounds said. "We're a deep group. We've got a lot of guys we can put out there. It starts with the seniors, so the juniors and sophomores don't feel like they have to do anything special. They can just do their jobs."
The Ridgewood defense committed only two penalties all game, and found out both times just how opportunistic Delbarton can be. Connor Bilby stuck an extra-man goal with 1:54 remaining in the third quarter to pull the Green Wave to within 4-3, and Cole Ricciardi scored on the other EMO just 1:02 later to knot the score at 4-4.
"You say it every game, 'You've got to stay out of the box because good teams are going to execute,' " Mike Pounds said. "Delbarton did a great job and burned us twice. But we really felt that six on six we were going to be in good shape."
Good shape is limiting a run-of-the-mill club to four or five even-strength goals for 48 minutes. Ridgewood kind of redefined the meaning by holding Delbarton's even-strength offense scoreless for the last 60:40 of the contest.
"It was how hard we worked all preseason and how close we’ve been together," O'Shea said. "We came into this game with confidence. We came out with a lot of emotion, and I guess we let it get the best of us. But we settled down and really played our game."
Mike Kinney covers boys lacrosse for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS