EXETER — The Pinkerton boys lacrosse team needed an answer.
Trailing Bishop Guertin by three goals in the NHIAA Division 1 state title game on Saturday with one quarter to go, and having scored just one goal over the course of the second and third quarters, championship heartbreak was on the horizon. One Pinkerton player had other ideas.
“Two words,” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said. “Gennaro. Marra.”
Twice in the fourth quarter, Marra scooped the ball up off the faceoff, ran straight down the field and scored, galvanizing the Astros and turning the game on its head, leading Pinkerton to a 14-12 victory, its second consecutive state title, and 12th in program history.
“For two years now, they’ve had no answer for Gennaro Marra,” O’Reilly said. “He’s too much of an athlete ... He’s just too good for them. There’s no answer for him and he just turned it all around for us ... When we were down by three goals, he was personally responsible for getting us back in the game.”
In the seventh consecutive installment of Pinkerton vs. Bishop Guertin in the state championship game, Pinkerton started on fire, opening with a 4-0 run and entering the second quarter with a 5-1 lead. O’Reilly said he anticipated one team coming out and punching the other in the mouth, but was wary of the other team eventually making a run back.
He was right to be concerned, as the Cardinals (18-3), unfazed, outscored Pinkerton, 8-1, in the second and third quarter. Despite the game nearly slipping from their grasps, the Astros players didn’t bat an eye, though.
“(There was) no doubt,” senior Ryan Auger said. “It’s a game of runs. We came out early, put a couple goals in but we knew they were going to make a run. We tried to keep our composure, and we obviously came out on top.”
Marra finished 22 for 30 in the faceoff X, with plenty of his biggest wins coming down the stretch when Pinkerton (17-4) needed it most.
“The whole game is ball control,” Auger said. “Gennaro winning faceoffs is probably the biggest factor for our team.”
To open the fourth quarter, with that three-goal deficit hanging over his head, Marra took matters into his own hands, winning faceoff No. 1, which resulted in a goal for Hunter Drouin just 24 seconds in. He took faceoff No. 2 down himself to make it a one-goal game just seven seconds later, and No. 3 resulted in another goal for Drouin.
With each goal scored, each faceoff became more and more crucial, but the pressure never reached No. 20 in red.
“Some kids come into these games nervous,” Marra said. “I feel like I’ve played enough of these games to come out and, once I get out there, walk in and focus on one objective. Goal by goal, minute by minute, and win a championship game.”
Marra’s second goal of the quarter gave Pinkerton an 11-10 lead with under eight minutes to play. The Astros didn’t trail again.
When the Cardinals tied the game at 12-12 with 59 seconds to go, up stepped junior Mason Drouin, notching a goal with 35 seconds on the clock, then, after another faceoff won by Marra, and the goalie out of his net, he scored another, Pinkerton’s eighth of the quarter, to ice the game with 17 ticks on the clock.
For the kid who spent his early years watching Pinkerton play Bishop Guertin on these stages, no moment had ever felt so special.
“It feels amazing,” Mason Drouin said. “I dreamed of this, watching these games growing up. It just feel so amazing right now.”
Between Marra’s outstanding night, clutch goals from the Drouin brothers, vital saves (16 total) from Jack Sweeney, and everything in between, every player stepped up when called upon for Pinkerton.
Although Marra admitted he’s played in quite a few games on a stage like Saturday’s, nothing tops what he and his teammates did in the final game for seniors like himself, Auger, Sweeney, and more. Auger simply said “it doesn’t get better than this.”
“Last year’s was sweet, but this was amazing,” Marra said. “To be able to cap it off in the last game ever with these guys, it just feels great to be on top and go out on a high note.”
Pinkerton 14,Bishop Guertin 12
NHIAA Division 1 State Championship
Goals: P — Mason Drouin 5, Hunter Drouin 4, Gennaro Marra 2, Ryan Auger 2, Owen McCormack; BG — Ben Abladian 3, Dawson Clark 3, Sean Cameron 2, Chris Kiely 2, Mason Carroll, Michael Kiely
Saves: P — Jack Sweeney 16; BG — James Heitmiller 14
Pinkerton (17-4): 5 0 1 8 —14
Bishop Guertin (18-3): 1 5 3 3 — 12