April 27, 2022

Erickson Spearheads Gritty Defensive Performance As PHS Boys’ Lacrosse Defeats Allentown 9-7

CREASE CONTROL: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse goalie Rory Dobson, right, tracks a shot in a game earlier this season. Sophomore Dobson helped key a superb defensive effort as PHS defeated Allentown 9-7 last Saturday. The Tigers, who improved to 5-4 with the win, play at South Brunswick on April 30 and then host Red Bank Regional on May 3. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Will Erickson has taken it upon himself to lead the defensive unit for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team this spring.

“I have learned from some good guys, like Carson Giles and Lucas Kirby, and I just have to be a vocal leader out there and show the young guys how to play,” said senior star Erickson. “On ball, I have improved a lot. Playing against Will Doran and Patrick Kenah every day in practice gets you a lot better.”

With PHS having lost three of its last four games coming into a clash against visiting Allentown last Saturday morning, Erickson was determined to help PHS improve at the defensive end.

“We had been frustrated with some of our losses,” said Erickson, reflecting on a tough stretch that saw PHS fall 14-10 to Hopewell Valley on April 19, 14-12 to Notre Dame on April 12, and 13-9 to Mount Olive on April 9.

“We just wanted to come in and prove ourselves. As a defense we gave up a lot of goals that we didn’t want to. We just wanted to limit those and make them work.”

The Tigers limited Allentown’s potent one-two punch of senior stars Jake Searing and Jake Raff as PHS raced out to a 6-1 halftime lead.

“They are a lefty and a righty, me and Anthony [Famiglietti], the other defender, just matched up with our hands and didn’t let them get to the their dominant hands,” said Erickson. “We know they took some shots they probably didn’t want to and that is what we wanted to do as a defense. We wanted to make them feel the pressure and make them feel that they have to shoot. It happened and Rory [Dobson] made some great saves.”

In the second half, PHS held off an Allentown surge to post a 9-7 win in a contentious contest that featured crunching hits, a number of penalties, and some trash talking.

“It is a little scary with our defense sometimes, we haven’t really proven it that much this season,” said Erickson, reflecting on holding the fort in the second half.

“We let up a few goals but we just kept staying locked in and making them work and it ended up working.”

While the Tigers were thrilled to get the win, which improved them to 5-4, Erickson knows that the squad has plenty of room to improve.

“We feel good but there is a lot of work to be done,” said Erickson. “It is a regular season game and we want more than a regular season game.”

PHS head coach Chip Casto was relieved to see his team come through against the Redbirds.

“We had some tough losses, there is an old coach I used to work with who said just keep working hard, just keep working hard,” said Casto. “We had a good game plan, it was to be patient, move the ball and they will make mistakes and we will capitalize. We played very well early and then we hung on for dear life.”

The Tiger defensive effort helped set the tone for the contest.

“We were just very aware when they had the ball and we were sliding to them early,” said Casto. “They were a little off, they got shots and they didn’t hit them like they usually hit. We had that little bit of luck today.”

Casto credited Erickson keeping the defense on track. “Will is controlling things,” said Erickson. “He sends the early slides and he organizes things. He did a great job.”

As for the PHS attack, senior star Doran dished for five assists to trigger things with sophomore standout Kenah tallying four goals and two assists and freshman Braden Barlag contributing three goals.

“It was all patience; Will [Doran] and Patrick can handle the ball and as soon as they make a mistake we usually find it in the crease,” said Casto. “We were super patient with the freshman Braden Barlag finishing everything inside, he has been tremendous.”

Casto was proud of how his team weathered the storm in the second half as the Redbirds reeled off three straight goals in the third quarter.

“That is who they are, they are the best athletes in the conference,” said Casto. “We were waiting for it and it came. We withstood that and had to be a little smart with the ball at the end.”

Going forward, Casto is hoping that the victory over Allentown can be a turning point for his squad.

“When you beat them, it is always a confidence builder and sends a little message to the conference,” said Casto, whose squad plays at South Brunswick on April 30 and then hosts Red Bank Regional on May 3. “It got a little heated, it is a great rivalry. We had been losing to everybody and now we are going to start winning hopefully. We have to just keep getting better, especially defensively. We have been giving up a lot of goals. We said if we score nine, we should win. We haven’t been doing that, today we did by limiting their opportunities.”

Erickson believes the Tigers can do some big things down the stretch.

“It is no secret, we want to win the Mercer County championship as does Allentown, Notre Dame, and Hopewell,” said Erickson. “Everyone wants it and we want to just work hard and get there. It can propel us and show us what we want to work on.”