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CROSS-RIVER, N.Y. — Zone defense and the name Tim Schurr have always been synonymous with one another. The current John Jay-Cross River coach has run the tricky scheme to perfection with the Indians and before that with Somers.
On Saturday at evening John Jay-Cross River High School, visiting Ridgefield (CT) beat Schurr and the Indians at their own game. The Tigers employed a stingy zone defense and dominated possession — going 10-of-12 at the draw — en route to a hard-fought 5-4 victory.
For Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey, an All-American midfielder at Syracuse during the ultimate run-and-gun era of the early 1990s, it was a change of pace.
"I would prefer to not play a low-scoring game," Colsey said. "I like the excitement and the up and down."
Of course, he also likes to win.
Ridgefield wasted little time putting the wheels in motion, grabbing an early 4-1 first-quarter lead behind a goal apiece from Cal Dearth, Will Bonaparte, Sean Riley and Sean Wilkinson. Tommy Beck notched John Jay-CR's lone goal.
"Offensively, I think we jumped on them pretty quick," said Wilkinson, who led the Tigers with two goals and one assist. "We came out strong and that got us up a few early."
Schurr, who mixed a little man-to-man defense in early on, admitted his team gave up a few bad goals at the start.
"We were struggling in the early going," Schurr said. "Man-to-man they were getting top side on us, so we decided to stay in our zone. The matchups didn't seem to be favorable to us."
John Jay-CR midfielder Andrew Duffy cut Ridgefield's lead to 4-2 with 14.8 seconds left in the second quarter off a pretty feed from Beck, but Wilkinson one-upped him as time ran out in the half. The senior attackman, who is also a standout hockey player, employed what was basically a slap shot on turf to beat the first-half buzzer.
"I don't even know how it went in, but I guess the hockey background helped me in that respect," Wilkinson said. "It just bounced and I saw there were only a couple seconds left on the clock and I just turned and kind of one-timed it toward the net and luckily it went in off the post."
It would be the last goal that John Jay-CR goalie Tom Branca would relinquish. The Fairfield University-bound standout was spectacular with 13 saves, completely blanking a potent Ridgefield offense in the second half.
With its defense in lockdown mode, John Jay-CR kickstarted its transition offense. University of North Carolina-bound junior longstick middie Jack Lambert took an outlet from Branca and went coast-to-coast, beating Tigers goalie Adam Winne (five saves) to trim the deficit to 5-3 with 4:43 left in the third quarter. Lambert then found senior attackman Matt Ferentini on a fast break to make it a one-goal game with 9:35 left in regulation.
While John Jay-CR thrived in transition, its six-on-six offense struggled to create scoring opportunities. The Indians scored just once in their base offense.
"Ridgefield's very athletic and played a good zone," Schurr said. "Against a zone it's tough to dodge. We tried to dodge a couple times, which is ill-advised. Their goalie is solid and they relied on him making some big saves from the outside."
The Indians also had a difficult time clearing the ball, which limited their offensive possessions.
"We have struggled with that all year," Schurr said. "Maybe our sticks aren't that good as defensemen or maybe we just panic. I don't know. We should be able to clear the ball. These guys have a lot of experience. Why we are not clearing the ball is beyond me."
John Jay-CR's comeback hopes were ultimately dashed due to a pair of penalties inside the final two minutes and 30 seconds of the fourth quarter.
Ridgefield has now won two straight over its border rival. John Jay-CR's last win came back in 2010. According to Wilkinson, the Tigers are a program on the rise.
"Last year, we won our first state title for Class L in Connecticut," he said. "When I started playing on the youth team, we had 15-20 kids playing in first and second grade. Now, we have like 80 kids trying out. You can see the growth and the love for lacrosse in our town."
The Indians (7-4) will look to bounce back in their next game against Lakeland/Panas on May 1. Ridgefield squares off against Trumbull in its next game on the same day.
Ridgefield 4 1 0 0 5
John Jay-CR 1 1 1 1 4
RF (8:49) Cal Dearth unassisted | 1-0 RF
JJ (4:53) Tommy Beck unassisted | 1-1
RF (2:49) Will Bonaparte unassisted | 2-1 RF
RF (1:44) Sean Riley from Sean Wilkinson | 3-1 RF
RF (0:39.5) Wilkinson from Dearth | 4-1 RF
JJ (0:14.8) Andrew Duffy from Beck | 4-2 RF
RF (0:00.1) Wilkinson unassisted | 5-2 RF
JJ (4:43) Jack Lambert unassisted | 5-3 RF
JJ (9:35) Matt Ferentini from Lambert | 5-4 JJ
LIVE CHAT REWIND
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass
* Watch a broadcast of this game on MSG Varsity iO ch 14 on Tuesday at 4 p.m. It will be available on demand ch 614 the same day *