DUXBURY, Mass. – Any time the ball was in the vicinity of Duxbury long-stick midfielder James Burke, it either settled in his stick, or if a Billerica player happened to snatch it first, they were likely to be sent flying.
The physical matchup between the No. 1 Dragons and the No. 12 Indians came as advertised, with Burke as its prime example. But Duxbury was, at times, a bit too hasty with the physical play and were hampered by nine man-down situations throughout Wednesday’s battle.
Despite surrendering two goals while down a man, the Dragons showed their teeth with a relentless defensive showing in a 5-4 win over the Indians.
“Our defense kept us in the game all night long,” Duxbury head coach Chris Sweet said. “We knew coming into this season that our defense is the heart and soul of the team and that they were going to keep us in a lot of games.”
The Dragons (4-1) were paced by senior captain Paul Hellar’s hat trick, while Burke and senior long pole Matt O’Keefe turned in superb defensive efforts.
“It all starts with Bongo in the cage,” O’Keefe said of Dragons goaltender Henry Buonagurio. “He’s such an awesome asset to have back there, he’s so vocal.”
While the Dragons were solid from the back out, they were stunted offensively at times, with so much time concentrating on killing Billerica’s man-up situations.
When Duxbury was able to possess, Hellar was most effective. Perhaps none of his three strikes was finer than his last. While looking to boil down the clock with a one-goal lead late in the fourth quarter, Hellar ripped off a shot from 15 yards out off a ground ball.
“I think it’s really that we’ve just been there so many times,” Hellar said. “We’re able to keep our composure at the end of the game. We all know what we have to do, we just got out there and do our jobs.”
Still, Duxbury sweated out the final seconds of the contest as Billerica senior middie Peter Walters notched a hat trick of his own while drawing the Indians within a goal with 1:26 to play.
Billerica (4-2) had one final possession with 11 seconds to play, but Ben Melaugh’s desperation shot from 30 yards out went just wide of the cage.
Indians goaltender D.J. Smith was solid again in cage, making nine saves.
“Our guys are tough,” Indians head coach Craig Flynn said. “They’re going to fight, scratch and claw the whole game. There’s no giving up in these guys.”
NOT QUITE THERE YET
Duxbury faces another of its biggest challenges of the season on Saturday when they face defending New York state champion Jamesville-DeWitt. And Sweet thought his team might have been guilty of looking ahead to that meeting instead of focusing on the task at hand.
“I think we have to realize that we’re not as good as we thinks we are and everybody else thinks we are,” Sweet said. “We have to work hard for our wins. We’re starting to realize that.”
It was the second straight one-goal decision Duxbury faced in its last two games, after falling by a goal to Irondequoit last weekend. It’s partially a product of the face that goals have been difficult to come by for the Dragons.
“I feel like we’ve stepped it up a bit, but we still have to step it up a lot,” Hellar said of Duxbury’s attacks.
“Now, we have Jamesville-DeWitt this weekend and we’re going to have to play really strong against them.”