EXETER — What had been a perfect season ended in devastating fashion for Pelham boys lacrosse.
The top-seeded, unbeaten Pythons fell behind by two goals in the first two minutes and could not recover, falling to No. 2 Hopkinton 15-5 in the New Hampshire Division 3 state championship game at Exeter High’s Bill Ball Stadium.
“We’ve had a great season,” said Pelham head coach Will Delanoy. “We’re usually the ones that start out strong first. To be behind today hurt. Both teams fought hard, but we just couldn’t get out of that hole.”
The Pythons (16-1) were playing for their first ever boys lacrosse state title. It was their fourth title game appearance, first going in 2012 then earning back-to-back trips in 2015-16. With the win, the Hawks (16-1) took home their third straight state title.
Pelham dealt Hopkinton its only loss of the 2019 regular season, 9-5, on May 5. In that contest, the Hawks jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead before the Pythons came surging back.
So, when Hopkinton scored twice in the first 2:02 of regulation on Saturday, there was no panic in Pelham.
“The way the regular season game went, we knew by our experience we could claw back,” said Delanoy. “I called a time out and told them they could come back. But we didn’t play our game.”
Pelham could not slow Hopkinton’s early roll this time, as the Hawks surged to a 4-0 lead before the Pythons managed a shot on goal.
But the momentum seemed to swing when Pelham star Devyn Tucci scored twice in the final 1:03 of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 5-2.
“The guys got some of the jitters out and looked good at the end of the first,” said Delanoy. “But by then we were down 5-2. Clawing back from a deficit like that is tough.
“We have been very fortunate that, when we play our style of lacrosse, we don’t play from behind. We’re the team that’s controlling the tempo and pace of the game. But not having the ball on offense really hurt us.”
Hopkinton came out in the second on fire, making it 7-2 before Pelham’s Mason Fecteau could respond. The Hawks tallied two more goals before Tucci made it 9-4 at halftime.
“Going ahead gave us confidence, and then we were ready for what was coming after that,” said Hopkinton star Colby Quiet, who scored a game-high seven goals.
“The first time we played Pelham, after going ahead, we got flat-footed. This time we came out a lot more physical and a lot more intense and we knew what we had to do to win. We cut off their momentum, because momentum is everything in lacrosse.”
It was all Hopkinton after the break. Thanks to a dominant effort on faceoffs and aggressive defense that led to numerous turnovers, the Hawks controlled the ball and prevented Pelham from creating any sustained pressure. When the Pythons did manage an offensive rush, Hawks goalie Ben Madden (12 saves) was there to shut the door.
The Pythons also struggled with penalties, especially in the second half when Hopkinton scored three goals in each quarter to clinch the win.
“Not having the ball on offense and playing more than 30 minutes of defense is tough,” said Delanoy. “They have a great faceoff guy. We tried to do things a little different in the second half, but we couldn’t come back.”
Following the loss, Delanoy hoped his team could look back on this season fondly.
“We finished 16-1, so that’s a great accomplishment,” he said. “But anybody can beat anybody on any day. This was a great season, though.”
Hopkinton 15, Pelham 5
NH Division 3 Title Game
Goals: P — Davyn Tucci 4, Mason Fecteau; H — Colby Quiet 7, Paul Molnar 4, Corey Breault, Allan Faulkner 2, Joe Sawitsky
Saves: P — Jaxon Snyder 10; H — Ben Madden 12
Hopkinton (16-1): 5 4 3 3 — 15
Pelham (16-1): 2 2 1 0 — 5
Contact David Willis at @DWillisET or DWillis@eagletribune.com.