When Henry Cleaves of Waynflete has the ball high in the opposing box and taps the top of his helmet, everyone knows to buckle in. He’s crashing the cage.
That play helped the Flyers pull within a goal with 2:22 left Friday. Coming out of a timeout with under a minute to play, Cleaves called the play one final time. And one final time, Yarmouth middie Matt Woodbury braced for impact.
Woodbury gave up considerable size and momentum on Cleaves’ charge, but stood his ground long enough for defensive help to arrive as Yarmouth held on for a dramatic 5-4 victory in a Class B crossover boys’ lacrosse game.
“(Cleaves) is a strong, strong player who really wants (to use) his left hand, and we knew we had to slide to his left,” said Yarmouth Coach David Pearl. “Even when you hit him, the ball doesn’t come out of his stick and he continues toward the goal.
“But if you can count on anybody in a game, you can count on Matthew Woodbury.”
Yarmouth built a 4-1 lead at halftime, the final goal coming with 49.5 seconds left when Brady Neujahr (goal, assist) found William Jacobs at the back post for a rare inside shot on Waynflete keeper Graham Ratner (14 saves).
“We were a man up and we were moving the ball around,” Neujahr said. “We got them rotating and that opened a seam for that diagonal pass. (Jacobs) flashed his stick and I just hit him.”
Neujahr himself put Yarmouth (6-3) ahead 1-0 midway through the first quarter. About a minute and a half later, Cleaves countered for Waynflete (5-4), slipping a feed from Timmy Bollinger past Connor Hoehle (seven saves). Max Watson and Isaac Dearden pushed the edge to 3-1.
Jacobs’ late goal didn’t fluster the Flyers. They kept their cool and took advantage of the faster tempo of the second half.
“Give all the credit to Waynflete,” Pearl said. “They were flying around the field. We really struggled putting the ball in the net. We didn’t pass well, we had a lot of unforced turnovers and took a lot of really poor shots.”
All of which was fine with Ratner.
“Our defense kept all their shots from the outside so they were pretty easy to save,” he said. “If our whole team wasn’t going as hard as we could, you probably would have seen a different game.”
Tension mounted as Waynflete scored twice in the third around Matthew Beatty’s goal. Cooper Chap finished a clever pass from Willy Burdick to make it 4-2. Beatty pushed the lead to 5-2 and Harry Baker-Connick made it 5-3 with 4:36 left.
Waynflete had success in the second half despite the prolonged absence of Cleaves, who consulted with the trainer for about 12 minutes over the third and fourth quarters.
“On a slide I caught a slash across my helmet and it was a little scary at first,” Cleaves said. He returned after completing testing for a concussion. “I felt fine and it was too close a game not to go back in.”
He returned with a bang, crashing the net to make it 5-4 with about two minutes to go.
“He’s our go-to guy,” Waynflete Coach Dan Thomsen said, “and that was the way to go today.”
Meanwhile, Woodbury was glad for the help.
“We wanted to force (Cleaves) right, but he’s really, really good with his right hand, too,” Woodbury said. “Luckily on that last possession it worked out for us.”