If the Mashpee High School boys’ lacrosse team is to earn a spot in the Division 3 state tournament this year, it needs to come through with victories in the 50-50 games, the games between evenly stacked opponents that could go either way. On Friday, April 12, at MHS, they did just that as the Falcons scored an 11-8 win against Upper Cape Tech Regional.

The duo of Jack Howard and Owen Balfour led the way for the Falcons in the victory, as they teamed up to score the bulk of the MHS goals in the game. Howard had five goals and two assists, and Balfour potted four goals in a game that saw Mashpee lead wire-to-wire. UCT made a run in the fourth quarter to close the gap down to just one goal with just 2:13 left in the contest, but Mashpee held on and added two late tallies to win by three.

“It was a battle, it was a great game,” MHS coach Scott Zinser said. “Give them a lot of credit; they fought to the end. It could have been over.”

UCT’s Josh Winiarski was a thorn in the side of the Falcons all game long. He scored five of the Rams’ goals in the game, giving him 161 for his high school career thus far.

The Falcons controlled the game throughout and were on the verge of putting it out of reach after a late third-quarter goal by Balfour on a fast break upped the team’s lead to 9-4. Nate Reed assisted on the goal.

Lacrosse games can turn quickly, though, and the Rams did all they could to come from behind. UCT netted four straight goals in the fourth quarter. Winiarski got one moments into the fourth, and then the teams traded possessions back and forth. Upper Cape made another push with 3:17 to play, as a series of events were problematic for the Falcons.

First, MHS was cited for back-to-back fouls, putting two men in the penalty box. Facing a 6-on-4 situation, matters grew worse for the Falcons when defender Robbie Dias paid the price for selling out for his team. Dias leaped to block a shot and exposed his midsection in the process and took the brunt of a hard-moving shot. The impact left Dias on the ground and out of action for the remainder of the game.

While Dias was being tended to by the Mashpee trainer, Upper Cape’s coaching staff asked one of the referees to check a Mashpee stick. The pocket was deemed to be too deep, and MHS was called for another penalty, leaving them three men down.

Winiarski scored to make it 9-6, with his team on the three-man advantage and then he got another with 2:46 to play in regulation with MHS still shorthanded one player. Another Rams’ goal with 2:13 to play in the game made it 9-8 and the Falcons’ once comfortable lead was now anything but.

Senior Iyano Fermino, who was playing in his first game of the year for Mashpee, then made one of the clutch plays of the game for the home team by winning the ensuing draw. Fermino had dominated the circle all game long, but the timing on that victory could not have been better. Shea Eaton controlled the ball off the Fermino win and got the ball quickly to Howard. The freshman went hard to the net and fired in a huge insurance goal to make it 10-8, with 90 seconds left in regulation. Howard then assisted on perhaps the prettiest play of the day for MHS with 47 seconds to go, to ice the game. Rolling through the X position behind the net, Howard lofted a pass over the top of the goal—from behind it—and found a wide-open Howard on the doorstep for the quick-fire shot that made it 11-8.

Coach Zinser said he liked the way that his team dealt with the adversity in the fourth quarter.

“We ran into that spurt where we were shorthanded, and it was 6-on-3, and they got those two goals with a guy locked in. The important piece was that, with our young kids, they played through it. They played hard and they didn’t panic,” Zinser said. “Fortunately we got a goal back and that let the kids relax a little bit and just play.”

Clearly still a work in progress, Zinser said the victory was the type that the Falcons can build on going forward.

“We have to do smarter things. Sometimes we kind of rush our offense, and go to the cage when we don’t necessarily have to. Defensively, we’re just trying to keep it together. We lost our captain, Adam Henschel, probably for a month, and that hurts. Then Robbie Dias got injured late, and that hurt us. We’re battling numbers, but they’re playing hard and that’s the most important thing.”

While that defense may be a tad shorthanded, it still had its biggest piece, goalie Kayden Eaton. The freshman made 14 saves in the game, and came up with a couple of big ones in the second half that proved to be difference-makers.

“Our goalie, I wouldn’t trade for anybody. Kayden, he’s unbelievable. That kid is fantastic, to say the least,” Zinser said.

Mashpee is off until Tuesday, April 23. The Falcons will host East Bridgewater at 4 PM that day.

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