BY ED WRIGHT
April 17, 2010, 8:55 p.m.
It was only fitting that Saturday afternoon's high-spirited, high-intensity, high-drama lacross match between PCEP rivals Plymouth and Canton was decided by a last-second shot by an All-State attackman against a potential All-State goalie.
With his team trailing 10-9 and the clock winding down toward 0:00, Canton's Jake Underwood maneuvered in front of the net about 12 yards away and ripped a low shot that skipped once and into the netting of Plymouth goalie Michael Justus's stick as the buzzer sounded.
Justus's save halted a furious late Chief rally that saw them claw back to within striking distance after trailing by as much as 10-5 with 9:12 remaining in the contest.
Plymouth improved to 3-2 on the season.
"Our defense played great on Canton's final possession and Mike Justus really stepped up and mad e some key saves at the end of the game," said Plymouth first-year coach Brian Walsh. "I thought Alex Miller and Ben Burkman did an outstanding job on Canton's two All-State attackmen (Underwood and Matt Rodgers).
"We got just enough ground balls to hold on at the end."
The game was played at the PCEP varsity stadium with a cold, blustery, relentless wind whipping out of the northwest.
Canton's only lead of the game came 3:41 into the contest when Riley Hoernschemeyer rushed down the right flank and fired a shot past Justus from six yards out to stake the Chiefs to a 1-0 advantage.
The only other first-quarter goal came 1:26 later when Ryan Renault threaded a sharp pass to in front to Pat Smiatacz, who hummed a shot into the back of the net to knot the game at 1-all.
Both teams lost key players at the 1:27 mark of the first quarter when Canton's Ryan Dunleavy and Smiatacz were ejected following a brief skirmish near the west sideline.
Canton nearly regained the lead 23 seconds into the second quarter when Lucas Carpenter banged a shot off the goal post.
One minute later, Plymouth seized a 2-1 lead when Kenny Fanelli centered a pass to Connor Downey, who wristed a shot past Canton goalie Sean Walsh.
The Wildcats extended their lead with 9:09 left in the first half when Phil Flesch controlled a slick pass from Downey and ripped it home to make it 3-1.
Canton retaliated quickly, scoring two straight -- the first when Underwood assisted Trevor Moore's goal at the 8:25 mark of the first half -- and another 4:46 before the intermission when Underwood fed Rodgers, who whistled a shot past Justus.
Plymouth took a 4-3 lead into the half when Renault stripped Walsh of the ball 20 yards from the net, carried the ball a few yards then bounced it into an empty net with 1:14 on the clock.
Canton middie Tim Popped equalized things 42 seconds into the second half when he scored off an assist from Hoernschemeyer.
Walsh made his best stop of the game three minutes later when he denied Mike Olevnik from seven yards out.
Plymouth took the lead for good seconds later when Downey used a screen in front from a teammate and scored from 15 yards out to put the 'Cats on top, 5-4.
The goal seemed to energize the Wildcats, who added back-to-back net-finders from Brad Finch at the 7:32 mark and Fanelli, who was assisted by Olevnick.
Justus preserved the three-goal advantage a short time later when he diverted a sizzling Hoernschemeyer shot from short range.
The Chiefs pulled to within 7-5 with 3:37 to play in the third quarter when Moore scored off an assist from Rodgers.
However, Plymouth grabbed the momentum back with three consecutive goals over the next 6:30 on goals form Renault, Fanelli (from Drew Leist) and Finch (from Downey).
Canton lost Moore, one of its top attackman, to an ejection during the closing seconds of the third quarter.
Undeterred by their five-goal deficit, the Chiefs stormed back with ferocity that matched the wind, scoring four goals in a three-minute span of the fourth quarter.
Finding the net were Underwood, who unleashed a 90-mile-an-hour laser from 15 yards out with 7:30 to play; Rodgers (from Popp) with 5:46 left; Hoernschemeyer (unassisted with 4:20 on the clock) and Chris White (from Underwood) with 4:03 left.
Walsh made sure his team's deficit remained one when he denied Fanelli from close range.
Canton mounted a tenacious final-minute attack, but Justus came up big three times before the final buzzer sounded.
Ed Wright can be reached at (734) 453-1980 or email@example.com.
Canton mid-fielder Parker Pakula defends an unidentified Plymouth plyaer. (photo by Ed Wright)