CR can’t stop Sals from returning to finals

– Sean Wooleyhand of CR is blocked by a Sallies player while trying to advance the ball. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

BEAR — Caesar Rodney High had made a great Cinderella run through the boys’ lacrosse state tournament.

But almost every Delaware team’s season strikes midnight when they run into Salesianum.

Sure enough, the third-seeded Sals netted the game’s first four goals before eventually putting away a 12-5 victory over the No. 10 Riders in the DIAA state semifinals on Sunday afternoon at Caravel.

While the Riders were seven goals closer to the Sals than they were in a 19-5 loss on May 14, it wasn’t enough to stop four-time defending state champion Sallies (11-7) from advancing to its 12th straight state title game.

The Sals will face top-seeded Cape Henlopen on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Caesar Rodney.

After knocking off both the No. 7 and No. 2 seeds to reach the semis, though, playing Sallies tougher wasn’t much consolation for the Riders (12-6). CR has now lost its last 20 meetings with the Sals since 2006.

Tyler Morris of Caesar Rodney looks to pass with Sallies defenseman Mason Griffith closing in. (Special to the Delaware State News)

“Unfortunately, there’s no moral victories,” said first-year Riders’ head coach Brooks Johnson. “But the kids played hard. I’m proud of our progression from the beginning of the year until now. It’s something our program can build on.

“There was a lot of grit, a lot of effort, a lot of fight,” he said about his team’s play. “That’s been our staple all year.”

After trailing 7-3 at halftime, the Riders closed within 7-4 on a goal from Jimmy Cava with 7:09 left in the third quarter. Cava found the net from a tough side angle as he fell to the ground.

But Sallies ran off the contest’s next five goals to rebuild its advantage to 12-4 with 9:44 left in the contest. That was too much for CR to overcome.

Sean Wolleyhand scored twice for the Riders with Tyler Morris, Evan McLeary and Cava adding the other goals. Senior goalie Jacob Stant came up with several big saves in his final game for CR.

“We were able to stop (early in the game),” said Johnson. “We knew it was going to be a fight. Hats off to those guys, they’re a good team.”

While Brady McGovern had a game-high four goals and three assists, the Sals also got contributions from some Kent County players. Dover’s Bradley Santore had a pair of goals and three assists with Viola’s Logan Falconetti adding a goal and an assist.

The two seniors lived in Wilmington-area apartments during the season. Falconetti grew up in the CR school district.

“I’ve played with these kids all my life,” he said about the Riders. “I know every name of every kid on the team. It’s hard playing against those guys because you create a bond with those kids since you were a young age.

“Those were my teammates until eighth grade. They’re still my friends today so it’s hard to see them lose.”

In the state finals, the Sals find themselves in the unusual position of facing a Delaware squad they lost to this year. Cape beat Sallies, 12-8, on April 12 at the Dave Reynolds Lacrosse Festival at Wesley College.

That’s Sallies’ only in-state loss since 2014 when it fell to Cape, 9-7, in the state championship game.

“They’re really good,” Santore said about the Vikings. “We’ve got to watch some film and dominate our individual matchups and definitely win in between the lines. They’ve got a lot of talented players. We’ve been waiting for it all year. We’re excited.”

“We’re (always) hungry but this year we’re even hungrier,” said Falconetti. “They deserved to win that (first) game. They out-played us. We’re coming back hungry and I think we’re ready. We’re preparing. We’ll see Wednesday what happens.

“They’re a great team this year. … so it should be a battle. I’ve never been more excited for a game in my life.”

The Sals will be trying to win their 10th state crown under head coach Bob Healy and assistant Sean Plews, the Dover teachers and Wesley College football assistant coaches. Sallies is 3-2 all-time vs. the Vikings in state finals.

“Cape’s a tough team,” said Healy. “Every year they’re good. It’s going to be a war — it always is. That’s nothing new.

“We respect them. Wednesday night we’ll come out and give our best effort.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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