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Not the Knights' night

Kingswood lacrosse boys fall to Derryfield in Division III championship thriller

KINGSWOOD CAPTAINS Sam Walsh (left) and Derek Brockney pose with the Division III runner-up plaque after Tuesday's championship game. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
June 14, 2010
NASHUA — As the Derryfield Cougars celebrated at the other end of the Stellos Stadium turf last Tuesday night, Kingswood boys' lacrosse coach Matt Jozokos gathered his heartbroken team in a circle, telling the boys that they had a right to be mad, but had no reason to hang their heads.

"We have nothing to be ashamed of," the Knight mentor said after his team's bid for a state championship came up just short. "It's one of life's lessons that's tough to swallow."

The Knights, who put together a 14-0 regular season and won two playoff games to advance to the Division III finals, dropped a 12-11 decision to the Cougars and made the trip back to Wolfeboro with the runner-up plaque.

"It hurts, but you're going to remember this season," Jozokos told his troops. "That's what we want to hold onto."

Heading into the finals, the Knights had trailed in a game only twice all season, the second time coming in the semifinals against Pelham. They had never trailed by two goals and had never trailed in the second half.

"We had some opportunities to get up a couple of goals and didn't take advantage of those opportunities," Jozokos said. "And it came back to get us."

The Cougars came out of the gate quickly and pressured the Kingswood defense in the first minute of play, but the Cougars' shots soared wide of the net. The one shot that found its way to the net, Knight keeper Mike Bernier turned away.

The Knights didn't wait very long to turn the Cougars' offensive pressure into a goal, as freshman Tate Jozokos, playing in his final game as a Knight before heading to Governor's Academy next year, raced the ball down the field and deposited it behind the Cougar keeper for a 1-0 Kingswood lead 1:32 into the first quarter.

Kingswood took a penalty with 9:52 to play and the Cougars were able to take advantage with just three seconds left on the advantage, striking home the tying goal with 9:25 to play.

After another solid Bernier save, the Kingswood offense went back on the attack, with Derek Brockney leading the way with a solid shot that was turned away by the Cougar keeper.

The offensive pressure wasn't for naught, however, as Jozokos netted his second of the game, barreling through traffic and firing off a shot that tickled the twine in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead with 7:46 to play in the first quarter.

However, the Cougars didn't rest on their laurels, coming back 49 seconds later with the tying goal with just a tick under seven minutes to play in the quarter.

A solid defensive play by Wyatt French helped clear some Derryfield offensive pressure and led to a good scoring chance by Brockney that was tipped away by the Cougar keeper. Bernier also turned away a scoring bid and Cam Whitcomb added a good defensive play to keep the Cougars off the board.

The Knights got the ball back down the field and set up in the offensive zone, moving the ball well and attacking the net. With 3:37 on the clock, Matt Boucher found Brockney and the senior drilled it home for a 3-2 lead.

Once again, the Cougars answered quickly, tying the game 38 seconds later.

The Cougars then stayed in the offensive zone as the clock ticked down under two minutes, pressuring the Kingswood defense. However, the Knights held strong and all of Derryfield's shots sailed wide of Bernier and the net and the period drew to a close with the score tied at three.

Brockney opened the second quarter scoring just 1:49 into the frame, as he finished off a solid offensive set for the Knights to give his team a 4-3 lead.

The Cougars continued with their ability to answer every call, as they put the ball in the net 41 seconds later to tie the game at four and then took the lead just 26 seconds after that, putting in their fifth goal of the game.

Kingswood didn't sit back, however, as the Knights answered with two goals in 26 seconds to take back the lead.

Twenty-eight seconds after the Cougars took the lead, Brockney beat the Derryfield keeper to tie the game at five. The goal came after some good ball movement from Boucher, as he brought the ball from behind the net and found his classmate for a good shot.

The Knights took the lead back with 8:10 to play, as Jozokos executed a gorgeous fake, throwing off the Derryfield defense and then rifled the puck into the net for a 6-5 Kingswood lead.

The Cougars came back with the tying goal again, this time with 6:41 to play in the half.

Kingswood kept pressuring for the lead, with Jozokos and Colin Piper getting the best chances. Derryfield also had a couple of chances, but Bernier was up to the challenge and kept he ball out of the net.

With Derryfield pressuring in the final four minutes of the half, the Knight defense began getting a bit out of control and the Cougars capitalized, taking a 7-6 lead with 3:40 on the clock.

Just over a minute later, Boucher knotted the score again on an assist from Jozokos.

Piper and Jozokos had chances to give Kingswood the lead in the final minutes, but their shots were blocked by the Derryfield keeper. That is, until the final second of the period. With the clock winding down, Jozokos moved the ball back and forth, looking for an opening, then fired a shot as the clock ticked down to zero. The ball zipped into the net and Kingswood had an 8-7 lead at the break.

Boucher and Brockney had scoring chances to open the second half, but it was Derryfield who scored first, tying the game at eight with 10:13 to play. The Cougars kept pressuring and sent a couple of bids wide, but they also baited Kingswood into a penalty with 9:33 to play.

The Knights were able to turn the power play around, netting a shorthanded goal 38 seconds into the one-minute penalty. Jozokos stole the ball and found Brockney, who buried the shot for a 9-8 Kingswood lead.

The Cougars hit the post on a scoring bid and Bernier made a pair of saves on good bids as the penalty was killed off.

The Knights got a couple of power plays midway through the quarter, but they were unable to capitalize, as Piper, Boucher and Jozokos all had shots that missed the mark.

The Knights took the first two-goal lead of the game with 1:54 to play in the quarter, as Brockney finished off a play in which Bernier carried the ball up the field before finding an opening.

The Knights took a penalty with 24.8 seconds left in the period and the Cougars capitalized, perhaps seizing momentum for the fourth quarter. Derryfield buried a shot with 6.9 seconds on the clock, pulling them within one, 10-9 after three quarters.

The Cougars tied the game at 10 1:21 into the final quarter, marking the first time this season that the Knights had allowed an opponent to score in double digits.

The Cougars then took the lead just 24 seconds later, burying a shot with 10:15 on the clock for an 11-10 lead. They then drilled a shot off the post, but put home the rebound and took a 12-10 lead with 8:24.

Kingswood rallied back, as Sam Walsh found Jozokos and the freshman fired home a shot with 7:35 on the clock to pull the Knights within one at 12-11.

Kingswood continued to pressure. Jozokos, Piper, Boucher and Jake Vontz all had scoring bids, but the ball stayed out of the net. Derryfield then played a possession game and moved the ball around, allowing the clock to tick down.

The Knights took a timeout with 2:02 to play and made one last burst to try and tie the game. Boucher, Piper and Jozokos had the best chances, but nothing found its way through and Derryfield had the Division III crown.

"We were trying to get the ball to Tate and he was looking for Matt or Derek," Jozokos said of his team's final pressure. "We did everything we could."

The Knight coach also praised the Derryfield squad for a well-played game.

"Hats off to that team," he said, pointing across the field. "Their goalie made some great saves.

"But I couldn't be more proud of my guys," he continued. "The opportunity to play for a state championship is no easy feat, unless you're Plymouth High School football.

"To have that opportunity is something they're never going to forget," Jozokos continued. "With what we've been through, hats off to the boys."

The Kingswood coach praised his seniors for helping to build the team into a championship contender over the past few years and praised the entire group's teamwork throughout the season.

"We've been a team all year and it was all 20 guys who made things happen," Jozokos said.

Kingswood finished the year at 16-1 and outscored opponents by a 260-68 tally. The Knights scored in double digits in every game but one, a 9-4 win over Hollis-Brookline in early May.

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