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Boys lacrosse: St. Joe's offense is hard to stop (and ignore)

See for yourself. The score is hard to ignore.

St. Joe's 20, Canisius 2.

In a rivalry game between the two boys lacrosse teams that have combined to win the last three Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association playoff championships, one would not expect that kind of outcome. Same holds true for a game involving two teams ranked in the top 10 of the latest Western New York Coaches Poll.

Perhaps this is all a sign of things to come from St. Joe's, the area's No. 1 team, as the season hits the second half.

"We're playing a lot better sooner this year than last year," coach Peter Hudecki said. "We're a lot further along than last year."

The Marauders had a pretty good season in 2017, reaching their second straight state Catholic championship game. As good as they were, though, they played perhaps their worst game of that season in that state final – dropping a 12-5 decision to Kellenberg Memorial. They also lost in the state final in 2016.

Last year's loss, though, is something a good number of returnees haven't forgotten about as St. Joe's resumes its quest to join Bishop Timon-St. Jude as the only Monsignor Martin champion to ever win a state title in lacrosse.

"We want it bad," third-year starter Kellen Pulera said. "We're sick of losing up there."

But …

"We have to stay focused on our main goal which is winning the league first," senior CJ Goss said. "Focusing on that will help us be more prepared for the state championship and the league championship when it comes."

Living in the moment is key for the Marauders, who have some tough non-league games on the docket this week, including Thursday's home game against Section V's Pittsford. Road games at Syracuse CBA and Aquinas are slated for Saturday and Sunday.

The 10th-ranked Crusaders of Canisius were just the latest Monsignor Martin team to experience a thumping at the hands of St. Joe's, two-time defending league champions, who stood 6-2 overall and 4-0 in league play heading into Tuesday's test at Nichols.

The Marauders, whose losses have come against teams outside of New York, have beaten St. Francis by 13 goals and their two wins over Bishop Timon-St. Jude have been by totals of 13 and 10 goals, respectively.

As impressive as those margins of victory are, winning by 18 against a program that has made three straight league finals is heady stuff.

The Marauders return five of six starters on offense along with three on defense from last year. They are operating the team's motion offense with precision.

"We're playing real well," Pulera said. "We're moving the ball. … We have some good players. We're playing together as a team. We're just getting the job done."

St. Joe's Cole Campbell, left, and Kellen Pulera are among five returning starters on offense for the two-time defending Monsignor Martin champions. (Harry Scull Jr./ Buffalo News)

Cole Campbell, the Monmouth University commit, leads the Marauders in goals (24).  Pulera has 21 goals and leads St. Joe's in points with 36. He set the program record for points in a single game with eight points, including six goals, in the win over Canisius. Junior Casey Kelly has 14 goals and 28 points. Hunter Parucki, a sophomore, has 25 points in his second season as a starter.

Trevor Folsom, who will play at Canisius College, ranks second in face-off win percentage in the league (.723) and second in the league in total ground balls (53). As of Tuesday afternoon, Ben Seigel of Nichols leads in both categories.

Senior CJ Goss has been playing dominant lacrosse at the long-stick midfield spot for the Marauders, according to Hudecki. The Canisius College-commit had 14 takeaways and 13 ground balls in a 13-8 win over Section V's McQuaid.

"He's a very smooth player; he's fun to watch," Hudecki said.

Goss isn't the only one, judging by recent goal totals. Remember, scoring is supposed to be fun.

"They're very coachable," Hudecki said. "They have a high level of IQ for the game."

Hamburg's milestone

The St. Joe's versus Canisius score wasn't the only recent attention-getter in the lacrosse community.

How about Hamburg 8, Orchard Park 4?

That's the first time Class B-power Hamburg has ever beaten the longtime Class A-power Quakers. That win also was Jerry Severino's 200th career coaching win.

"I'm ready to put that milestone on the shelf and continue our 2018 campaign," said Severino, who now has 203 wins and is presently overseeing a seven-game winning streak.

Severino credited his assistants for their roles in helping the team prepare for the Western New York portion of its schedule.

Last year, Hamburg and Orchard Park played each other twice, their first meetings since 2005.

Hamburg has won 10 Section VI titles the last 11 years. OP has won 25 sectional titles the past 27 years.

Those hoping to help Hamburg make another long playoff run include: senior captain Jared Miley (14 goals), junior Brock Schneider (19 goals, 36 points) and junior face-off specialist Bo Johnson (72.85 win percentage).

Tigers' Hill roars to state records

Defending Class D champion Akron has 11 returnees, 10 of which are seniors, back trying to help the program attain some more history.

The Tigers broke through the regional wall last season and advanced to their first state final four in four tries, where they lost to eventual champion and private school Syracuse CBA. They were the first Section VI champion to win a regional game in any class since 2013.

The keys for Akron (7-1, 5-0) figure to include Owen Hill and Nelson Logan.

Hill holds the New York State Public High School Athletic Association record for career points (460), assists (262) and shares the mark for points in game (15). He recorded eight points in last year's 10-9 overtime win over Penn Yan in Far West Regionals. Logan shares the state mark for most assists in a game (11). He's committed to Division II Limestone College (S.C.).

Around the circle

-- West Seneca East is dealing with some injuries, but is slowly finding the right chemistry on a team with seven college commits that hopes to contend for the Class C title. Long-stick middie Will Whitney is committed to St. Bonaventure. A host of players are heading to Genesee Community College, which is playing in the JUCO National final. They are Danny Flynn, Brandon Moore, Christian Rodriguez and Drew Werner.

-- St. Bonaventure-commit Brendan Luthart of Medina surpassed 200 career points (with more than 130 goals).

-- The Section VI Tournament seeding meeting is May 16. The tournament begins with a play-in round, if needed, May 18. Quarterfinals are set for May 22. Championship games will be played May 30 at Williamsville North. Two games will go on simultaneously at the multi-field complex.

-- The defending Section champions are Orchard Park (Class A), Hamburg (Class B), Grand Island (Class C) and aforementioned Akron (Class D).

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