By Mike Flanagan @flano0
Without star attackman, Zach Travaglini (Boston University) due to injury, unbeaten ISL champion, and No. 11 Belmont Hill needed to play an almost perfect game on Saturday in order to withstand the firepower of unbeaten prep power and No. 2 Deerfield.
Belmont Hill gave Deerfield their best shot given the circumstances, but ultimately, it was not enough. Deerfield, seeking a perfect 13-0 season on Saturday, used a strong fourth quarter to pull away from Belmont Hill, defeating the host Sextants by a score of 14-8.
Less than a minute in, Kade Goldberg (Georgetown) found a cutting Wells Bligh (West Coast Starz / Brown) for an easy dump-in to give Deerfield an early 1-0 lead. A series of saves by Michael Scharfenberger (LI Express / Georgetown) on Adam Figler and Luke Theberge kept the game 1-0 before Brooks Hauser (Virginia) fired home a goal to make it 2-0 Deerfield.
Off the ensuing face-off win by Luke Curtin (Skidmore), Belmont Hill got on the board thanks to a cannon from Brooks Rayment (Colby), cutting the deficit to 2-1. Deerfield responded almost immediately following a face-off win by Matis Cole (Michigan) as a great feed from Bligh to Teddy Rockefeller (Brown) at the top of the box was stung home down low to make it 3-1.
Following the goal by Rockefeller, Belmont Hill found its rhythm with four straight goals. Braden Reilly got the run started by dodging from X and finishing down low to make it 3-2. Moments later on the man-up, Reilly found a cutting Rayment on the doorstep who finished up high to tie the game at three. Again on the man-up just 1:22 later, Charlie Cave (Brown) took a feed from Figler and stung home a shot off-stick side to give Belmont its first lead of the day at 4-3. On yet another man-up just 1:06 following Cave’s go-ahead goal, a beautiful inside feed from Reilly was finished with a quick-stick at the net-mouth by Liam Horkan to make it 5-3 at the end of one quarter.
Billy Curtis (Middlebury) put an end to the run for Deerfield in the first minute of the second quarter, cutting out front from behind the cage and stinging home a right-handed shot up high to make it 5-4. A little over two minutes later, Reilly finished a feed at the net-mouth from Figler behind the cage, posing Belmont’s lead back to a pair at 6-4. With time winding down in the half and on the shot clock, Goldberg cut inside the center of the box and ripped home a bouncer off-stick side with 7.7 seconds remaining to make it a 6-5 game at halftime.
Goldberg’s goal at the tail end of the first half significantly swung momentum in favor of Deerfield, as the Green opened the second half on a 4-0 run. Griffin Schutz (Virginia) got the run started by beating Trey Brown (Laxachusetts / Boston University) in a fierce ISO battle before dumping a home a shot up high. Schutz struck again moments later on the man-up off a feed from Bligh to reclaim the lead for Deerfield at 7-6.
“We have a lot of good players,” said Bligh following the game. “I think we were a little afraid of losing in the beginning. We talked it over at halftime, got all the jitters out. Came out and changed a little bit of our defense to help with their off-ball offense. And, I think offensively we carried the ball better. We moved a lot more, finished our passes, and finishes our shots and I think that really translated.”
A nice little passing play by Hauser to Christian Rasmussen (West Coast Starz / Brown) ended with Rasmussen stinging a shot down low to make it 8-6 and force Belmont to take a timeout. Following the break, Deerfield continued the barrage as Bligh rifled home a shot stick-side high to bump the lead to 9-6. Cave put a stop to the run for Belmont with a pair of beautiful spin moves before launching home a goal upstairs to make it 9-7. Some creative passing by Ethan O’Neil allowed Figler to bury a shot down low at the doorstep on Belmont’s next possession, making it 9-8.
Poke The Bear
Rayment’s goal towards the end of the third may have brought Belmont back to within a goal, but the goal seemed to poke the beast that is Deerfield. Antonio Topouzis (Laxachusetts / Cornell) drove down the right alley and bounced home the response goal with time winding down in the quarter to push the lead back to 10-8 at the end of three.
Some fine dodging by Goldberg in the first minute of the fourth ended with a lefty bouncer into the back of the net to extend Deerfield’s lead to 11-8. An off-hand righty bouncer by Schutz on the man-up 2:12 later built the lead to five at 12-8. A beautiful quick-stick finish by Joe Dowling (Harvard) at the net-mouth off a feed from Goldberg pushed the lead to six and before Curtis fired home the nail in the coffin with a finish up high with 3:34 to play. Deerfield’s defensive unit pitched a fourth-quarter shutout as the Big Green came away with the 14-8 win to finish the 2021 season undefeated and undoubtedly the top team in New England.
“The Best East Of Deerfield”
“I told our kids yesterday that Belmont Hill is the best team east of Deerfield,” said Big Green head coach Chip Davis. “We want quality opponents. Salisbury, Taft, and Belmont Hill is quite a gauntlet to finish the season so these kids deserve all the success they’ve had and everything that’s coming to them.”
DEERFIELD-BELMONT HILL STANDOUTS
Wells Bligh, Attack, ’21, Deerfield (Brown)
Bligh was about as complete as an attackman could be on Saturday. No matter where Bligh was on the field or who was covering him, he was able to facilitate the offense. Bligh’s goals were of two completely different natures. His first to open the game showed his pristine ability to find open space even in congested areas, while his second goal showed just how quickly he can make a defense pay for leaving him open for a 10-yard step-down. Brown is getting a student-athlete that could very well be the nucleus of their offense at some point in the next four years.
Michael Scharfenberger, Goalie, ’21, Deerfield (Georgetown)
This is not in any way an exaggeration, but almost every single one of Michael Scharfenberger’s body parts was utilized to make a save on Saturday; head, shoulders, knees, foot, bicep, head again, thigh and did I say head? Goalies like Scharfenberger are rare. He is the complete package; quick stick skills and possesses excellent footwork both in and outside the crease is flawless on clears AND is willing to wear countless shots. He will do whatever it takes to stop a lacrosse ball. It showed on Saturday with 10 saves against a lethal offense.
Kade Goldberg, Attack, ’21, Deerfield (Georgetown)
Off-hand dodging is always tricky for most high school players, but for Goldberg, there was no off-hand, and that made guarding all that more impossible for Belmont Hill’s defense. One possession, he’s dishing out an assist from X to Wells Bligh from his left hand and the next he’s cutting out-front and finishing with his right with a shot on the run to beat the shot clock. Goldberg finished the day with two assists from his right hand, one goal on his right hand, one assist from his left, and one goal from his left. Skill and versatility like this are hard to come by. Georgetown got themselves a good one.
Drew Dummer, LSM, ’22, Belmont Hill, Laxachusetts
Belmont Hill’s defensive unit boasts some big names, most notably close defenders Grant Litchfield (Lehigh) and Trey Brown (Boston University). Perhaps lost in the fold of big names on Belmont’s back end and face-off unit is Drew Dummer. After transferring in from Massachusetts public school Division 3 MIAA powerhouse Dover-Sherborn last year, Dummer was forced to wait an entire year to debut for Belmont. In arguably their biggest game of the season, Dummer made his presence felt right from the start, de-twigging Deerfield’s Matis Cole for a caused turnover on the second face-off of the game. Dummer’s stat line of one ground-ball and one caused turnover did not do his effort on Saturday justice. Still another year left as far as recruitment, Dummer will be a name to look out for this summer when he gears up for Laxachusetts.
Adam Figler, Attack, ’22, Belmont, 3D New England
With Zach Travaglini out due to injury, Adam Figler stepped up with a goal and two assists against an extremely well-coached and talented Deerfield defensive unit. It was not the cleanest day for Belmont’s offense but Figler constantly showed his willingness to put his body on the line and go to the dirty areas. Down late, Figler took a ball from behind the cage and dove at an awkward angle, absorbed the impact, and still put a quality shot on the net. It’s effort like this when the times get tough that catch the eye – and Figler certainly did.
Deerfield 14, Belmont Hill 8
Deerfield (13-0) 3, 2, 5, 4 – 14
Belmont Hill (10-1) 5, 1, 2, 0 – 8
Kade Goldberg – 2g,3a
Wells Bligh – 2g,2a
Griffin Schutz – 3g
Billy Curtis – 2g
Joe Dowling – 1g
Brooks Hauser – 1g,1a
Teddy Rockefeller – 1g
Antonio Topouzos – 1g
Christian Rasmussen – 1g
Liam Griffiths – 1a
Cooper DeMallie – 1a
Matis Cole – 12-of-23 face-offs
Thomas Stull – 1-of-1 face-offs
Michael Scharfenberger – 10 saves
Braden Reilly – 2g,2a
Brooks Rayment – 2g
Liam Horkan – 1g,1a
Charlie Cave – 2g
Ethan O’Neil – 1a
Adam Figler – 1g,2a
Luke Curtin – 11-of-24 face-offs
Michael Marinello – 9 saves