April 17, 2024

Reynolds Helps Lead a Stifling Defensive Effort As PHS Boys’ Lacrosse Defeats Allentown 6-4

COMING THROUGH: Princeton High boys’ lacrosse player Brendan Beatty heads upfield in a game last spring. Junior midfielder and Vermont commit Beatty scored two goals and added an assist as PHS stifled Allentown 6-4 last Thursday. The Tigers, who topped Lawrence High 16-5 on Saturday to improve to 4-1, play at WW/P-South in April 18, host Pennsbury High (Pa.) on April 20, and play at Cherokee on April 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As James Reynolds and the defensive unit for the Princeton High boys’ lacrosse team girded for their clash against Allentown last Thursday, they did their homework.

“It started two days before the game; the defensive players all gathered and we watched film,” said senior defender Reynolds. “We spent about two hours just going second by second on every one of their plays and players, running down their dominant hands. The preparation was the key to their entire game. It was all in the prep. It was all knowing who their guys were, calling out and knowing what to do.”

The Tigers had plenty of motivation as the Redbirds have been a thorn in their sides recently.

“The mindset is that we really wanted to win, the past two years we lost to them at home and away in the regular season and in the MCT,” said Reynolds. “We just wanted to get a win, that was all we focused on.”

That focus showed as PHS held Allentown to one goal in the first half as it built a 4-1 lead.

“We were ecstatic, it just all culminated,” said Reynolds, reflecting on the first half effort. “We just wanted to win it so badly. We said we are going to make them earn every goal and not give them any free shots.”

In the third quarter Allentown went on a run, tallying three unanswered goals to tie the game at 4-4.

“They had a lot of possession, that three-goal streak rattled us a little bit,” said Reynolds. “Going into the fourth quarter we said, ‘Hey, take a deep breath, we are a little tired. Get a drink, and then just play our game.’ It was just play lacrosse out there.”

The Tigers ended up playing some great lacrosse over the last 12 minutes of the contest, shutting the door on the Redbirds to pull out a 6-4 win.

“Our coach (Chip Casto) said just give it all you’ve got,” said Reynolds. “It was throw your body on the line and just sell out for every ground ball, every shot, every possession.”

As Reynolds heads down the stretch of his PHS career, he is determined to give his all.

“Coach [Jason] Carter and Coach Casto were saying, ‘You have to step up this year if we want to win anything,’” said Reynolds. “I took that to heart. I am just thinking about last year — it wasn’t a good season for me. So this year I want to make the best of everything in the last of every game.”

The PHS backline, which also features senior Anthony Famiglietti, junior Jack Crotty, and senior Frank McLaughlin in addition to Reynolds, has been raising its game.

“I think starting here, we are starting to turn into a real unit, a real small tight brotherhood,” said Reynolds. “I am really happy seeing us come together and I am excited to see what we can become in May.”

Reynolds, who helped anchor a special unit this fall as a defender on the PHS boys’ soccer team that went 22-2 and won the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Group 4 state title, is applying some of that spirit on the lax field.

“In soccer, we said we are the base of our team,” said Reynolds. “If we can do our job, the offense can do whatever they want. They can score, they don’t have to worry about us.”

PHS head coach Chip Casto tipped his hat to the PHS defensive effort in the win over Allentown.

“Our defense really played well, we are just focusing on playing better team defense,” said Casto. “Sliding to the big shooters, we were trying to get to 23 (Sean McCaffery) a lot. We were playing the dodgers behind really well.”

Casto credited Reynolds with helping to spearhead the backline.

“We have been working on him just being patient and staying on the hips, using his feet, not his stick, to play defense,” said Casto of Reynolds. “He responded very well.”

The return junior goalie Corbin Kasziba helped PHS hold the fort.

“We finally got Corbin back after being out the whole year,” said Casto of Kasziba, who recorded nine saves in the win. “His influence showed, making a couple of big saves.”

After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first three minutes of the contest, PHS hit an offensive lull, scoring only one goal over the next 33 minutes.

“We got good shots but took bad shots,” said Casto. “We put ourselves in a position to take a good shot but we kept shooting it in the middle at the goalie. They played well for that stretch, they needed something to change the momentum from us. Their defense changed the momentum and then their offense started to kick in a little bit and all of a sudden it is 4-4.”

The one-two punch of senior attacker Patrick Kenah and junior midfielder Brendan Beatty came through when it counted as they each scored two goals and had one assist. Kenah tallied the go-ahead goal late in the third quarter as PHS went up 5-4 and then Beatty added the final tally of the contest midway through the third quarter.

“They sometimes get a little overworked, we need to make sure that we are getting other people better,” said Casto. “When we need it, they know it so they go get the ball. They are just special kids to have.”

In Casto’s view, the Tigers need to work hard on a daily basis to keep moving in the right direction.

“We are just trying to move through the CVC (Colonial Valley Conference) to get the best seeding for the counties and looking even bigger, we want to make sure that we are getting better every day,” said Casto, whose team topped Lawrence High 16-5 on Saturday to improve to 4-1 and plays at WW/P-South in April 18, hosts Pennsbury High (Pa.) on April 20, and plays at Cherokee on April 23.

“We would like to go deep in the tournament, that is one of our goals. It is a really, really heavy senior squad basically. The culture here is achievement and working on every rep. We are getting better every day and we got better today defensively so it was fun.

Reynolds, for his part, believes that the win over Allentown was a big boost for the squad.

“It is a total confidence builder, going into Lawrence and then Hun next week (on April 16),” said Reynolds. “We really want to beat Hun because then we are set up for counties we are set up for states and just for future hard games.”