DANVERS — When it was over, the players and coaches gathered in small circles on the turf at Glatz Field, sharing hugs and tears.
Soon they were linked arm-in-arm, facing the overflow cheering section that had come down to cheer them on. They serenaded the players with the Central Catholic school song, promoting more tears from players, coaches and fans alike.
The Raiders’ boys lacrosse season came to an end Monday night when they fell to the top-ranked St. John’s Prep Eagles, 12-7. They played this Division 1 North semifinal with extremely heavy hearts, having lost one of their own, 16-year-old teammate Ryan Driscoll, to complications from an auto accident that took place just two days prior.
Central Catholic (17-4) head coach Chris Piatelli said he and the school administration had spoken with the Driscoll family about the possibility of postponing the game, but they encouraged them to play as scheduled.
“For the Driscoll family and for our boys, it wasn’t even a question of us playing the game,” said Piatelli. “They wanted to carry on Ryan’s legacy and play.”
While the game itself was emotional on both sides and a bevy of penalty flags disrupted the flow, there was nothing but respect once the final whistle had blown. The two teams took part in the traditional postgame handshake, and players from St. John’s went over to the Central fan section to give them a standing ovation.
“Ryan was one of those kids who loved his one-liners,” said Piatelli. “He’d always break the tension; he was a great locker room kid. He worked really hard at lacrosse day in and day out. He was a kid who really embodied what Central Catholic was all about.”
It was a record breaking season for the Raiders, said their sixth-year head coach, in terms of victories in a single season. This also marked the first time the program had ever won two playoff games in one spring.
Matched up against the 18-3 Eagles, however, was a tall order. Central had battled St. John’s well in the final week of the regular season, losing only by a single goal (15-14) on a rainy, miserable night. But whereas that contest was a back-and-forth clash, the Raiders never could get the lead on this night.
Two big factors favored the Eagles in the long run: they took an early lead and never trailed, forcing fourth seeded Central to play catch up the entire night. St. John’s Prep also had arguably the state’s best faceoff man in Craig Yannone, who won all but one of the draws he took (Graham Tyson was also 3-for-3 at the X subbing for Yannone). Constantly having possession not only helped the hosts generate offense, but kept Central from creating it at the same time. “We just had to keep our composure and keep executing,” said St. John’s Prep head coach John Pynchon, whose team will host the winner of Tuesday’s other sectional semifinal between Lincoln-Sudbury and Acton-Boxborough back at St. John’s on Friday (5 p.m.) for the North final.
Central, which tied the game at 2-2 on the first of senior attackman Nathan Nutter’s two goals but never got any closer, had a strong performance in net from senior keeper David Olsen (9 saves), who had the initials “R.D.’’ written on a white wrap around his right leg.
Captain Chase Dunn added two scores and a helper for the Raiders, with junior Shane McInnis producing one of each. Senior Deven DeBay and junior Connor Finneran also scored; Michael Finneran contributed two assists.
Seven different players had goals for St. John’s, with junior Michael Ott scoring three times along with an assist.
“It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but I can’t thank our eight seniors enough,” said Piatelli. “They inspire me every day.They certainly leave the program much better than what they found it as freshmen.”