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AMHERST KNOCKS OFF ORCHARD PARK
QUAKERS' 11-YEAR WNY STREAK ENDS

At Friday afternoon's meeting between the area's top boys lacrosse teams, one team was finishing slick plays, playing oppressive defense and building a lead so large the mercy rule had to be employed.

But it wasn't Orchard Park.

Amherst took one of the greatest winning streaks in the history of Western New York high school sports and stickchecked it into the ground as it beat Orchard Park, 14-5, dominating the team that has dominated this area for 11 years.

The Quakers' last loss against a Western New York team was to Sweet Home, 10-9, in the 1994 Section VI Class A championship. OP (6-1) had won 129 straight games against Western New York teams since then, including 10 straight Class A championships.

"It's unbelievable," said Amherst senior midfielder Kyle Burton. "I've been waiting for this day since eighth grade. I don't even know what to say. I don't want to leave the field. To be my senior year, to go out and beat Orchard Park, it's just amazing. It means so much."

Junior midfielder Corey Rich, senior midfielder Taylor Ebsary and senior attackman Justin Pratt each scored three goals and senior midfielder John Allen had a goal and four assists for three-time defending Class B champion Amherst (5-0).

Burton added two goals and was his usual feisty self on faceoffs, winning several early on. The Amherst defense had an excellent game in front of senior goalie Garrett Allwes, who had several spectacular stops among his 13 saves.

"I had a good feeling that today was just the day," said Allwes. "I never thought my freshman year that we'd do it my senior year, but I had a very good feeling today. Everyone played hard and did their job. Everything was just going our way."

Amherst claimed the game with a stunning, 5-0 first quarter behind Burton's faceoffs and and an overpowering offense.

Allen scored 1:53 into the game off an Corey Rich feed, Ebsary wound up from straight out for a goal and Burton whipped in an overhead shot off an Ebsary feed for a 3-0 lead before the game was six minutes old. Freshman Casey Rich danced through several defenders for an unassisted goal before Corey Rich circled around from behind the cage for a slingshot goal from the left side and a 5-0 lead.

The ever present Ebsary led a great defensive stand by forcing a turnover, then led the transition and fed Pratt for a sidearm slingshot goal and a 7-0 lead.

On OP's next possession, Allwes stuffed a inclose attempt by OP senior Andy Pace, who then drew a three-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for slashing a defender. The Tigers got a goal from Ebsary during the penalty, then finished off the half with an excellent possession for the final minute which ended with the 5-foot-9 Burton skittering through OP's longsticks for a 9-0 lead five seconds before halftime.

Amherst coach Stefan Henn had cards in his pocket with phrases for his team to keep in mind, and one was "weather the storm." The storm came when Orchard Park started the second half with a four-goal run that made the score 9-4. But Allwes came up with a big stuff of a jump shot by Pace, and Rich finished off a solo charge to the cage to help break OP's momentum. Amherst again closed a period with a textbook play, as the Tigers ran the clock down before Allen fed Pratt for a goal with eight seconds left in the third.

When Casey Rich's underhanded slingshot ripped the net for a 14-4 Amherst lead with 5:37 left, the inconceivable happened. Orchard Park, which has routinely blown out opponents throughout its streak against Western New York teams, was on the opposite side of the mercy rule: when a game's margin reaches double digits, a running clock is used. The clock wound down quickly until OP scored with just 14 seconds left.

"They won a lot of faceoffs early, they won a lot of ground balls, their goalie played great, and we couldn't penetrate their defense," said OP coach Gene Tundo. "Eleven years is 11 years. Who's done that in any sport in the country? We probably should have gotten beat before this. But they did it today. They beat us all over the field."

Orchard Park's win streak was nearly as old as Amherst's program, which was started by Henn in 1994.

"OP has been doing this for 11 years," Henn said. "We're all excited, but we won a game. We haven't done anything close to what coach Tundo has done. That's just phenomenal. . . . But I'm just so happy for my kids, and the community and the school."
e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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