When the Amherst boys lacrosse team fell behind by three goals in the third quarter of the Section VI Class B final, all it had to do was look at the number written in orange marker on its hands.
"We all always put a '1' on our hand -- it just means to make the next play," said Amherst coach Stefan Henn. "They're always feeling, make a play. Just one at a time, one this, one that, whatever '1' stands for in your brain. One step at a time. Don't think about three goals, just one goal. So even when they hung three (straight goals) on us, we just don't drop."
By the end of the game, Amherst players' hands were showing a different number: three fingers for the Tigers' third straight Class B championship. Amherst scored seven straight goals to dig out of that three-goal hole and run away from Hamburg, 13-11, Friday afternoon at Canisius College's Demske Athletic Complex.
An estimated standing-room-only crowd of 1,000 watched Amherst earn a spot in Tuesday's state quarterfinals. Joining the Tigers in the next round are Orchard Park, which beat West Seneca West, 19-1, for its 10th straight Class A championship, and Gowanda, which won its third Class C crown by beating Medina, 15-2.
It is the second straight season that Amherst (17-2) has beaten Hamburg in the championship game. Hamburg beat Amherst in overtime, 14-13, during the regular season, and things again were tight in the final as the teams played to a 4-4 halftime tie.
The Bulldogs appeared to take control when they scored three straight goals to start the third quarter to gain a 7-4 lead. Travis Yantomasi started Amherst's response by scoring the third of his five goals with 8:30 left on a move to the cage despite being slashed.
Senior midfielder Eric Sherman won four straight faceoffs during the run, including possessions that resulted in senior attackman Zach Hertel scoring on a long bounce shot to cut the lead to one for an extra-man goal and Joe Gomez using a sweet solo effort to tie it with 6:51 to go in the third.
Amherst was able to keep rolling thanks to senior longsticks John Kenney and Steve Snyder, who along with sophomore goalie Garrett Alwess led the defensive effort that kept Hamburg off the scoreboard for a span of 12:41.
Amherst took the lead when Yantomasi wheeled around through traffic and scored on an underhand shot with 3:31 left in the quarter. Hertel made it 9-7 on an unassisted charge to the cage, then scored his third goal and gave Amherst a three-goal lead by converting Yantomasi's feed from behind the cage for a 10-7 lead going to the fourth quarter.
Junior attackman Mike Pizzutto's hard bounce shot made it 11-7 with 7:11 left in the game. The closest Hamburg would come was 12-10 with 2:18 left, but the 6-foot-4 Kenney scooped up a loose ball with his longstick at midfield, then sped straight to the Hamburg cage and scored on a bounce shot with 1:04 left that caused the Amherst sideline to start hopping.
"This is Amherst's time: May," said Sherman. "We play not for the regular season, but for the end of the season. We're 0-0 when we come to the playoffs. All we care about are the championships, the patches (given to sectional winners) and the trophy. We've got a game on Tuesday, and now Tuesday is all we're thinking about."
Frank Resetarits scored six goals for Hamburg to give him 291 for his career, one goal shy of the state scoring record held by former Carthage and Syracuse University standout Casey Powell.
The University at Albany signee had a laser shot off a feed from fellow senior Ryan Lesandro for the goal that made it 12-10. Resetarits also pushed Hamburg on its four-goal run across the second and third quarters by scoring three straight times then assisting on the goal that gave Hamburg its three-goal lead.
He converted a close-in shot that tied the game at 4-4 with 29 seconds left in the second quarter off a great feed from senior Steve LaRue, who scooped up a ground ball off a faceoff near midfield and fired it to Resetarits a few steps from the cage. LaRue found Resetarits for a nice bang-bang goal 1:05 into the second half. Next he made taking a defender to the cage for a goal look easy before finding a cutting Derek Evans from behind the cage.
Amherst will play the winner of today's playoff between Section V (Rochester area) champion Victor (9-12) and Section X winner Massena (3-14) at 5:30 Tuesday. If Victor wins, the game will be at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford.
Orchard Park, ranked second in the state in Class A, kept its undefeated season rolling with its 108th straight win against Western New York teams.
When West Seneca West's Kevin Komosinski scored on an assist from Derek Rose, it made the game 1-1, but Orchard Park patiently dominated play by possessing the ball and had too much on offense.
Senior Simon Manka had five goals, three coming on coast-to-coast runs that showed off his astonishing speed. Seniors Jon Corto and Matt Tundo each had three goals and two assists. Orchard Park's goal total actually would have been greater -- particularly during its 11-1 first half -- if not for some fine saves by West Seneca West junior goalie Chris Corteau.
OP (18-0) will play Webster Schroeder (17-2) in Tuesday's quarterfinal at 8 p.m. at St. John Fisher.
Last year, Gowanda came to the finals having beaten Medina twice, but the Mustangs pulled off a 13-12 overtime win. This season, the Panthers beat Medina twice during the season again, and they didn't have to be reminded about it.
"One of our football coaches asked a player about the games with Medina this year in the regular season," said Gowanda coach Ray Logan. "And he said, 'I don't know. It doesn't matter.' It's awesome. The kids knew they had to show up today and play some ball."
Norman Cooke had five goals and three assists while Preston Lay had three goals and three assists, and Dan Jimerson scored three goals as Gowanda built an 8-1 halftime lead and was up, 11-1, after three quarters. Gowanda has won three Section VI titles since the Class C tournament began four years ago.
Gowanda (13-5) will play at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday against either Section V power Penn Yan (16-1) or the Section X champion Canton (16-1). Those teams play today at Potsdam; if Penn Yan wins the game will be at St. John Fisher.