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Hopkinton boys’ lacrosse team falls one game short of perfection

  • Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, walks off the field after  Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, walks off the field after Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The Derryfield School's Matt Milne, #19, scores on Hopkinton High School's Matt French, #14, during a game at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. The Derryfield School defeated Hopkinton High School by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    The Derryfield School's Matt Milne, #19, scores on Hopkinton High School's Matt French, #14, during a game at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. The Derryfield School defeated Hopkinton High School by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, makes a shot during a game against The Derryfield School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Derryfield defeated Hopkinton by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, makes a shot during a game against The Derryfield School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Derryfield defeated Hopkinton by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Hopkinton High School's Austin Cowan, #9, reacts after Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    Hopkinton High School's Austin Cowan, #9, reacts after Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The Derryfield School's John Sullivan, left, and Jon Devine, right, celebrate after Derryfield's victory over Hopkinton High School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

    The Derryfield School's John Sullivan, left, and Jon Devine, right, celebrate after Derryfield's victory over Hopkinton High School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013.

    (TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, walks off the field after  Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • The Derryfield School's Matt Milne, #19, scores on Hopkinton High School's Matt French, #14, during a game at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. The Derryfield School defeated Hopkinton High School by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Hopkinton High School's Ned Metcalf, #18, makes a shot during a game against The Derryfield School at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Derryfield defeated Hopkinton by a score of 10-5 in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • Hopkinton High School's Austin Cowan, #9, reacts after Hopkinton's loss to The Derryfield School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)
  • The Derryfield School's John Sullivan, left, and Jon Devine, right, celebrate after Derryfield's victory over Hopkinton High School in the Division III boys' lacrosse championship at Stellos Stadium in Nashua on Tuesday, June 4, 2013. <br/><br/>(TAEHOON KIM / Monitor staff)

NASHUA – The reactions said it all after Robby Ferguson took Austin Cowan’s pass and fired a shot into the net midway through the third quarter of the Division III boys’ lacrosse final. Ferguson was quickly mobbed by his teammates, Cowan pumped his fist several times, and the entire Hopkinton team appeared ready to believe it was beginning a comeback.

Instead, it was a last stand. The Hawks still trailed by two goals and had to hold undefeated and top-seeded Derryfield, and they were about to become the 20th team that couldn’t do it. The Cougars seized control again minutes later and never let up, earning their second championship in four years with a 10-5 win at Stellos Stadium.

“We had to play a perfect game, I thought, in order to beat them,” said Coach Doug Maynard, whose team fell to 17-1 on the same field it had celebrated a championship of its own two years ago. “And we didn’t.”

Hopkinton and Derryfield (20-0) entered with perfect records and the two stingiest defenses, statistically, in the state, and the early going saw those rankings play out. Both teams struggled to generate good scoring looks, but Hopkinton got out of the first quarter in good shape after Peter Sawitsky and Austin Cowan scored to knot the game at 2. The Cougars also entered with the state’s highest scoring offense, however, and their passes began to connect and their shots began to get through traffic in the second quarter as they went into halftime with a 6-2 lead.

The Hawks were taking too many penalties and making too many turnovers, but they were undefeated for a reason, and Maynard knew they were a few plays away from turning the game around.

“I knew it was going to be a tough game,” he said. “But I had confidence that, if we got our act together, we could fight our way back. There was still plenty of time.”

For a moment, they did, and it set up the game’s turning point. Ned Metcalf scored after coming around from behind the net with 6:05 left in the third, and after a slashing penalty on Derryfield, Cowan found Ferguson across the field and the sophomore midfielder whipped a shot from 15 yards away past Derryfield goalie Mitch Green with 5:21 left, trimming the gap to two and restoring hope to the Hawks’ sideline.

“Definitely a chance there,” Maynard said. “Lacrosse is a great game, you can come back. If Ned had caught fire at the faceoff spot there, anything could happen.”

Instead, the Cougars took the next few faceoffs, and quickly extinguished that hope. Jim O’Brien scored on a great over-the-shoulder feed from Arthur Krogman, Matt Milne scored from up close and O’Brien had another goal before the quarter ended, putting the Cougars up 9-4.

“We definitely had a little bit of momentum,” said Metcalf, who led the team with two goals. “And then they just scored two quick ones on us and kind of took it away. We tried the whole game, but it just wasn’t enough.”

Hopkinton got a last-gasp goal from Metcalf to make it 10-5 with 7:35 left in the game, but the Hawks’ chances were scarce – due largely to Derryfield’s focusing its defensive energy on stopping attacking defenseman Bennett Mosseau and sticking its top defender, Jon Lencki, on ace Hawks forward Henry Merrow. Neither player scored during the game.

“We just felt like, if we could get after those guys, we matched up pretty well against the rest of them,” Cougars Coach Chris Hettler said. “The defense did a great job, they were flying around the field tonight. Everybody was fresh.”

Milne scored five goals for the Cougars, while Tyler Zorn and O’Brien (three assists) scored twice and Griffin Phaneuf also had a goal.

“Great players in big games step up. They always do,” Hettler said of Milne, who finished the game with 400 career points. “He found a way to get himself free and get the ball in the back of the net.”

Though the Cougars were always in control, they struggled to put the Hawks completely away until late, largely due to junior goalie Matt French, who made 13 saves, and a defense led by James McCluskey and Nate Hunt that kept Hopkinton in the game.

“Matt had his usual performance. Outstanding,” Maynard said. “He’s just the prototype of a great goaltender. You see these guys in Division I on TV, and Matt does all the stuff that they’re doing.”

Afterward, the frustration among the Hawks players was as easy to see as their enthusiasm had been a quarter-and-a-half earlier, but Maynard wasn’t about to overlook the 17 straight wins that got the Hawks to that point.

“I know a lot of kids are disappointed that we couldn’t take it to the next step,” he said. “But we had a very successful season. … This wasn’t guaranteed, that we’d make it to this game.”

(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at abonifant@cmonitor.com, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)

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