By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — When Dom Guerrera scored just 49 seconds into Tuesday’s game against Don Bosco Prep at Carey Stadium, host Ocean City started to believe that maybe there was a chance the Red Raiders could pull an upset of the heavily favored Ironmen.
That euphoria didn’t last until the end of the first quarter, as Bosco — the No. 2 team in the state and the defending Tournament of Championship winner — proved why it is one of the top programs in the region with five unanswered goals to close out the quarter. Ocean City did what it could against the Ironmen’s talented, crisp and efficient offensive unit, holding Don Bosco to just three goals during the second and third quarters, but the damage had been done in the first as the Ironmen cruised to a 13-1 victory.
The matchup was one of several really tough non-league games Ocean City — which won its first South Jersey Group 3 title a year ago — put on its schedule in an effort to not only be ready for the state playoffs, but to increase its name recognition among the region’s lacrosse elite.
So far this season, Ocean City has had five non-Cape-Atlantic League matchups and gone 1-4, the Red Raiders’ lone win a 9-8 triumph over Cherokee. But those five opponents — Haddonfield, Southern Regional, Ridge, Cherokee and Don Bosco Prep — have a combined record of 22-8 this season.
Last year, Ocean City traveled to Don Bosco Prep, up near the New York border, in mid-May and came away with an 11-3 loss.
“I remember going up there last year, a long trip, three hours. I wouldn’t say we were scared, but there was definitely some fear in terms of how we could play against those guys. They were up 11-0 near the end of the game but then we scored three goals, and that experience kind of pushed us to the South Jersey Group 3 title last year. I know it’s really hard to win games like this, but it’s really the experience we get at the end of the day,” said Ocean City senior defenseman Pat Breslin. “You can make mistakes against some of the teams we’ve already played and you can get away with it. You make a mistake against a team like this and they are just going to punish you. We learned that, definitely, by the end of the first quarter.”
The Ironmen (5-1) evened the score, 1-1, with 8:26 left in the first quarter when Mark Marino fed Connor Gorman for the first of his four goals. Gorman scored again less than a minute later on a low shot from the right to give Bosco the lead for good at 2-1. Koleton Marquis, the Ironmen’s leading scorer, then got into the act 40 seconds later by taking a pass from behind the net and scoring the first of his game-high six goals. He and Marino added goals before the first quarter came to an end, giving Bosco a commanding 5-1 lead. That was plenty for sophomore goalie Colton Carfello, who racked up 13 saves while allowing just one goal.
“I’m happy with the effort and intensity we brought for 7/8 of the game. I’m never happy to lose, but we realize we’re playing against a team that won the TOC last year and didn’t really lose anybody except for one guy off last year’s team. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle. The effort was there. I have to say, their goalie stood on his head. He made some saves that we’re going to learn from and get better, and he’s only a sophomore, so they’ll be good for awhile. It was a good learning experience. That game means more to us than any of the CAL games. A game like this will help us,” said Ocean City coach Joe LaTorre. “With our schedule, our guys get a reminder (of where they need to be) about two times per week. This is our fifth non-league game and we’re 1-4 right now in those games. But when you look at the body of work and who we’ve played, every non-league team we’ve played is in the state top 20 or top 25. If you look at the preseason, we’ve played everybody who is currently Nos. 1-7. So, we’ve seen the best.”
Ocean City has a couple more very tough games on its schedule before the state playoffs begin in mid-May, including a home game against Manasquan on Saturday, a matchup against St. Augustine Prep next week and a road game at Rumson-Fair Haven to close out April.
What’s next: Ocean City hosts Manasquan on Saturday at 11 a.m. Don Bosco hosts Mountain Lakes on Saturday at noon.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays