Cape Henlopen breaks Sals’ hold on state lacrosse crown

Delaware State News/Marc Clery
Cape Henlopen’s Luke D’Ambrogi and Gabriel Best celebrate a goal.

CAMDEN — State titles aren’t captured in one, single game, of course.

Cape Henlopen High’s boys’ lacrosse players put in years of hard work and sacrifice to earn the right to lift a state championship trophy on Thursday night.

The top-seeded Vikings’ crowning moment was a hard-earned 12-10 victory over No. 3 Salesianum in the DIAA state finals before a big crowd at Caesar Rodney’s Rider Stadium.

In snapping the Sals’ four-year run as state champion, Cape (18-2) earned the program’s seventh state title overall and first since 2014.

“It feels awesome,” said Vikings’ senior attackman Luke D’Ambrogi, who collected two goals and five assists. “I’ve been playing with this group of seniors since we were in first grade. We’ve worked a long time for this.

“We went to every indoor session in the winter, every weight-lifting session. This is what it’s for — to hold up the trophy at the end of the season.”

“Having a son that’s a senior and his buddies, that we’ve been working with for a long time, it’s rewarding for them and for me,” said Cape coach Mark D’Ambrogi, Luke’s father. “I really wanted them to have a great experience — and I think capping it like this truly is.”

The Vikings never trailed after Gabriel Best caught a pass from D’Ambrogi and quickly fired it home with just 0.9 seconds left in the first half. The goal gave Cape a 4-3 halftime lead.

That advantage grew to 8-3 with 4:02 remaining in the third quarter. But Sallies (11-8), which got dominant performances from faceoff specialists Matteo Gariffo and Matthew Riley, kept coming back.

The Sals cut the Vikings’ lead to 8-6 early in the fourth quarter. They then sliced a pair of Cape four-goal advantages down to 10-8 with 5:31 remaining and 12-10 with 22.8 left.

Finally, though, a penalty on the last goal gave the Vikings’ automatic possession and they were able to run out the clock.

As the final horn sounded, Cape’s players threw their equipment into the air and sprinted across the field before tumbling into a big pile on top of each other.

“A lead in lacrosse is never big enough,” said Vikings’ senior Jack Dennis, who netted three goals. “That five-goal (lead) went to two pretty fast. We put another two on them and just kept it. That felt good.

“Every year we were the underdogs and they always beat us. It was just motivation for us to beat the school that had a four-peat. They just kept winning. … We felt like we had to do something about it. We just went out extra hard this year and got it done.”

Cape showed it was ready to challenge the Sals on April 12 when it beat them, 12-8, at the Dave Reynolds Lacrosse Festival at Wesley College. That was Sallies’ first in-state loss since falling to the Vikings in the 2014 state finals.

“That first one definitely gave us confidence,” said Dennis. “If we can beat them once, we can beat them again.”

The Sals had won 19 straight state tourney games before Thursday’s loss. Playing in its 13th straight state finals under coach Bob Healy, Sallies was trying to win the program’s 10th state crown under the Dover teacher and Wesley football assistant.

The Sals held a commanding 19-6 edge in faceoffs.

“Matt and Matteo, they’ve kept us in ballgames all year,” Healy said about his two faceoff specialists. “We got down but I thought we didn’t quit at all. We kept fighting and I’m proud of their effort in the second half.

“Cape’s a very good lacrosse team. There’s no doubt about that. They’re good. We understood that going into today. We knew it was going to be a war and it was.”

“It was just a matter of us keep trying,” Mark D’Ambrogi said about faceoffs. “We won enough of them (in the second half) that we could gain possessions. A couple of the goals that we got off of those were really big.”

Christopher Wong led Sallies with three goals while former CR student Logan Falconetti had two goals and a pair of assists in his final high school game.

Besides Dennis and D’Ambrogi, Best and Gregory Boyce added two goals apiece for Cape. Adem Tekman (1 assist), Blake Gipko and James Heid also scored as seven different Vikings had goals in the contest.

Junior goalie Baxter Travers also came up big several times, finishing with 14 saves.

Mark D’Ambrogi said his players would have been happy to beat any team for the state title. At the same time, beating Sallies was special.

“Salesianum has been the standard,” said D’Ambrogi, who has been the head coach for five of Cape’s state crowns. “I think we were focused. It’s tough to beat a good team twice.”

“It means a lot,” said Luke D’Ambrogi. “That group of seniors, I’ve been playing with them for a long time. It feels awesome.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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