ALLSTON, Mass. -- One of the great things about high school sports is that you often find a situation in which a parent and a child get to go through a four-year experience together as player and coach.
To able to share in a state championship together? When it comes to Duxbury lacrosse, there can be no Sweet-er feeling.
The Dragons offense seemed to feature a different lead scorer every game during the 2012 campaign. It's almost as if it's scripted that, on any given day, it's going to be so and so's turn to get the goals. While the team certainly doesn't do that, it seemed fitting that leading scorer in Wednesday's Div. 1 title game was senior Sam Sweet.
Growing up as a lacrosse player in Duxbury with the last name Sweet can't be all too easy. Just because of the name on your back, the already high expectations that surround the team on an annual basis get ratcheted up even further when your father is the man who has served as the architect of Massachusetts' true lacrosse dynasty.
Sam Sweet has found a way to set those expectations aside and just play his game, and the senior produced a hat trick as a key component in the Dragons 10-8 victory over Needham at Harvard Stadium. The win gives the Dragons nine Div. 1 state titles since 2002.
"There's a lot of expectations with everyone on this team," Sweet said afterward. "Almost every senior is going to on to play college ball so there's a lot of high expectations for us. We just have to put those aside. We're still in high school. We just try to focus on our goal of winning a state championship."
"Over the last four years, it's been awesome," the Hamilton College-bound senior continued. "I've played with these guys since I was eight years old, growing up with them its been awesome to be here. And to finish it off like this is a perfect way to finish off a senior season."
Sam has been on the sidelines for every Duxbury lacrosse game since he was in the first grade, and by the time he hit middle school, he watched his older brother Derek win a state championship alongside his father and knew that was an experience he wanted to have as well.
Chris Sweet has often ducked questions about Sam, preferring to keep things focused on the team as a whole. But on this night, as the two were able to pose for pictures together on the Harvard Stadium turf with the state championship plaque in hand, Dad couldn't help but wax a little nostalgic about his youngest son.
"I wouldn't trade it for anything," Chris Sweet said. "To be out here with Sam and to get to be with him every day on the field is a fathers dream. It's been hard at times. I have to treat him like the rest of the guys. But as his father, Im extremely proud of him. I'm sad its over but its time for him and his classmates to move on in life."
For the son, the experience of sharing these moments with his father will last a lifetime.
"It's pretty cool. I wouldn't ask for it any other way," Sam Sweet said. "Kids don't always get to spend this much time with their Dad and I've been lucky for that. To do it like this and come out win all these games together, it's really cool. When we're out on the field he treats me like any other player. It's not any harder or easier. But when we get home, he's my Dad."
ITS NEVER EASY
While the Dragons routinely dominate the lacrosse landscape of Massachusetts, the act of actually winning the state title doesn't always happen how one might think. Since 2007, the Dragons have only had one blowout win, a 16-9 triumph of St. John's Prep last year. Duxbury needed overtime to topple Xaverian (2007) and Billerica (2008), then the Prep played them to a one-goal game in 2009.
With the Dragons holding a 10-4 lead after three quarters, it looked like the rout was on. Needham had other ideas though, breaking out a Lee Corso-styled "Not so fast my friend!" over the final 12 minutes.
"I can't even remember the first half. I think we were ahead," said Sweet with a laugh following the game. "We stuck to the gameplan, we did what got us here. Needham battled back in the second half and they made a game of it. They are athletic, they're well coached and they are scrappy. They don't give up. Thats why the score was that close at the end."
The Rockets didn't get the memo that they were just supposed to play dead in the face of the Dragons, and a rare faceoff win led to a Mark Riley goal just 41 seconds into the final frame to kick off a comeback attempt.
Nico Panepinto added his fourth goal of the game just under four minutes later, and a series of penalties left Needham with a 5-on-3 situation and Duxbury's backup goalie in the cage, which they cashed in on as Mikey Panepinto fed James Caruso for a man up goal at 7:13.
Timmy Parlato, a heart-and-soul kind of player if there ever was one, then made it a two-goal game after scooping a ground ball from a deflected Riley shot and burying his own with 5:53 to play.
"In the early stages of the game we got backdoored a little bit, we didn't see some things very well and because of that they got their hands free inside the crease and they were able to finish some really high percentage shots," explained Needham coach Dave Wainwright. "This is a game thats all about momentum. We were able to capture some and we rode it well.On defense we changed up three different times how to go after them and we figured out that we justhaad to go play some man to man and try and take the ball away. We were able to create some turnovers and pressure them and that gave us some opportunities."