Thursday, April 21, 2016

Postgame Blog: Cohasset Thwarts Grafton's Upset Bid in OT

Grafton junior poles Danny Bartosiewicz (17) and Tom Nicalek (3) helped the Indians hold Cohasset off the board for 23 minutes of game time Thursday.

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

On a warm afternoon at Weston High School, Cohasset scored a dramatic 10-9 overtime win over Grafton, thanks to a top-shelf power shot from sophomore Ryan Donovan.

The game was also the kickoff to the first ever Weston Spring Classic Boys Lacrosse Tournament, and each of these teams will be back in Weston Saturday to play the championship and consolation games.

My full story with quotes from both teams should be up on BostonLaxNet soon, but until then, here are a few of my wandering thought from the game.

Finding Their Footing

Grafton quickly found itself in a 4-0 hole, but found its footing a bit toward the end of the first quarter. After that point, the Indians outplayed Cohasset in pretty much every facet, winning the battle at the face-off X, locking things down defensively and slowly finding their offensive groove, thanks to big days from Anthony D'Angelo and Hunter Fraser.

But that slow start did ultimately doom Grafton, and it's not hard to see why it happened. No offense to anybody on the Indians' schedule so far, but Grafton hasn't faced a team like Cohasset yet this year. The Skippers are a legitimate state title contender with numerous players that will take their games to the next level, and this core has played together for years.

However, once the Indians adjusted to the level of play, you had to be impressed with this team. Cohasset coach James Beaudoin told me Grafton's athleticism caused his team fits, and I don't think that's something anybody in the state thought they'd hear from the Skipper boss before this one was played.

Grafton proved to be at least Cohasset's equal for the last 37 minutes of regulation, but those first 11 minutes are the reason this one went to an extra period.

Grafton's Secret Weapon

Speaking of athleticism, Grafton got a lot more of it today, as football star Ifeatu Melifonwu made his varsity debut for the Indians. Melifonwu, who plays everywhere from quarterback, to wide receiver to defensive back for the Grafton football team, just picked up lacrosse this year, and he's proven to be a natural.

Coach Alan Rotatori didn't wait too long to throw his new LSM into the fire, putting Melifonwu on Cohasset star Dan Axelson. Working against the future Providence Friar, the rookie more than held his own, keeping Axelson off the board for the rest of the game, after the senior had already recorded a hat trick in the first half.

Ifeatu Melifonwu (14) was given the task of covering a future D1 college player in his first varsity game, and proved up for the challenge.

"Ifeatu was the X-factor for us today," Grafton senior attackman Chase Kapuscienski said. "It was his first varsity game, and his first varsity practice was yesterday. He really stepped up."

Getting Defensive

Grafton also mixed in putting Tom Nicalek on Axelson, who kept the big fella from getting a shot off in the waning seconds of regulation. But really, everything the Indians did defensively worked out during the middle of the game. From the end of the second quarter through the middle fourth quarter, Grafton held Cohasset off the board for 23 consecutive minutes, scoring five unanswered goals in the process. That 6-3 deficit eventually turned into an 8-6 advantage, though Cohasset found its offense shortly thereafter.

For those nearly two quarters, Grafton looked like a team that could play with anybody in the state, and its poles were a big reason why. Along with Nicalek, junior Danny Bartosiewicz and Alec Cosseboom both has solid days. Fellow LSMs Nick Hart and Jack Fontana each made life miserable for Cohasset's middies, and it really was a complete team effort on the defensive end.

In net, Cadrin Msumba shook off a four-goal first quarter to flat-out dominate the rest of the day, finishing with 19 saves on the afternoon, including nine during Grafton's shutout stretch.

"Cadrin had a rough first quarter," Kapuscienski said. "But after that I talked to him, and he locked it in. He was seeing the ball really well, and coach made a great decision and put Ifeatu on No. 5 (Axelson)."

Staying Loose

Despite the initial hole, and a 6-4 halftime deficit, the Grafton guys were as loose as ever during intermission, and remained themselves throughout the day. Cole Fontana even asked me, with a laugh, if I was enjoying the game, all while it was tied up at 9 with 37 seconds to go in regulation.

Yeah, I'd say this team held up well in the spotlight. Another thing that's struck me about this team is its honesty. A week ago I watched them blowout Tantasqua, and the basic theme of their postage remarks was "we were mad we had to share the league title with them, so we came out looking to beat the heck out of them."

This week, Kapuscienski flat-out said he thought Grafton played a little scared and tentative to start the game, but realized they could play with Cohasset once things got going.

You don't hear that kind of honesty often, whether a team wins or loses. Clearly this is a confident bunch, and they'll need that swagger come tournament time.

Looking Forward

Let me first say that, more than any of its wins, Grafton proved it is for real with this tough loss. Cohasset is a very, very good team, and not many people across the state gave the Indians much a chance in this game. That said, Grafton won't have much time to rest as they'll move onto face a solid Hamilton-Wenham team that gave Weston all it could handle today.

H-W isn't the power Cohasset is, but they're a quick bunch, capable of going on a run at any time. Grafton will then jump back into Mid-Mass play with games against Hopedale and Northbridge next week, before what looks to be a huge game against Westboro a week from Saturday. The next two weekends will be big ones for Grafton, so learning from this game and putting the loss behind them in a hurry will be key for the Indians.


Anonymous said...

This was no upset bid by Grafton. More the other way around!!!! Cohasset was lucky to get out of there with a win, and most importantly they know it!! The Ifata kid played great and the only reason Grafton did'nt win is because their coach took him off of him at crunch time. Not surprising at all

Aleke Msumba said...

Hey Joe - nice piece. Funny you should quote Chase and Cole - they really are two of the most straight-forward, honest kids I know. Cohasset is a very good team and that was a fun game to watch. One of the Grafton players mentioned to me that Axelson was shooting with two Grafton middies directly on him and he not only got the shot off, but pretty sure it was a goal too! But you do have to hand it to Grafton, down 4-0 and they come all the way back to lead 8-6 with 4 mins to go. This team will continue to surprise the competition for the rest of the season. Break out players like Ifeatu Melifonwu who is used to shutting down opposing teams' All-Stars is just one facet. (Albeit a really important one). I thought another great yet unheralded player was middle Drew Donadio. He was all over the field on face-offs, ground balls, defense, and dishing out key assists. Again - a team effort! We are all looking forward to some more "instant classics"!

Anonymous said...

^ His name is Jimmy Donadio

Gene Kapuscienski said...

I agree with Aleke. Grafton's players played hard, and once they got over the "name", they were focused and showed that Central Mass kids can play with Eastern Mass kids. Chase did say after the game that there is a difference between Central Mass and Eastern Mass teams in that Eastern Mass teams slide and react faster, and like to break more than other teams in our region. Grafton's philosophy has been to play all comers such as Westboro, SJ, Wachusett, Shrewsbury, Algonquin, Westford a few years back, and Franklin every year. Throw in teams such as Cohasset, Weston, Hamilton-Wenham and you can only get better and be prepared for the tournament. Grafton's youth program is second to none and has produced not just good players, but good kids. It's a testimony to Coach Rotatori, and all of the youth coaches that Grafton is consistent. I heard some say that Thursdays game was what one might call a "good loss", and definitely served notice that when you step on the field with Grafton you will be in for a challenge and a game until the very end, longer if needed. It's fun to watch this team with the depth they have. Not just Donadio, but Nick Hart, Jack Fontana, Cole Fontana, Hunter, and Connor Driscoll, and Matt O'Brien just never, ever quits. Fun game yesterday along with beautiful weather, and although a win would have been nice, Grafton served notice that they will be a team to contend with not just this year, but in the years to come. Nice job boys.