Milford edges Lake Forest 14-13 in boys lacrosse

Milford’s Gaige Hayes and Lake’s Riley Taylor battle for control of a loose ball. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

FREDERICA — When Lake Forest High netted four consecutive goals to erase a four-goal deficit to tie the game with 4:38 remaining, the Milford High boys’ lacrosse team remained calm.

Junior Alex Herka scored the game-winning goal at the 2:21 mark of the quarter to lead Milford to a 14-13 victory over the division rival Spartans.

“He had the matchup and he has the shot to just swing it past any goalie there is,” said senior teammate Jonathan Gaglione. “I trust his shot, even though I did duck a little, but I let him take it and he clutched out and stung the corner.”

It was Herka’s lone goal of the game and ninth of the season.

“When you have the kids that we have, you just have to rest assured that they’re going to do it and they did,” said Bucs’ coach Blake Faulkner. “It’s huge, we’re sitting in a situation where we could call a timeout and try to set something up, but it’s just about trusting in the players.

“They know how to find each other, and they know what they’re supposed to do, so it was just a good finish for Alex.”

Milford’s Alex Herka guards Lake’s Kade Collins.

The win extends Milford’s current streak to five straight wins over Lake Forest, dating back to March 22, 2017. It’s the Bucs’ second consecutive one-goal game against the Spartans.

“It always feels good, they’re our rivals and they always fight hard and they want it just as bad,” Herka said.

Gaglione scored a team-high four goals with two assists for the Bucs (2-1). Lake Forest’s Dylan Auen scored a game-high six goals at the other end of the field.

“It feels really good, of course they’re our rivals and we always give each other our best game,” said Gaglione. “It’s just a really fun game to play in, especially when we come out on top.”

Ryan Frost started the game in goal and recorded seven saves for the Bucs before Gaij Copes entered in the second half and made five saves to close the game out.

The two squads combined for 11 goals in the first quarter, with Milford’s Gaige Hayes leading the way with a hat trick.

Hayes’ three first-quarter goals and Landan Hajek’s first of his three goals put the Bucs ahead 4-1 through the first 5:13 of the game.

The Bucs’ Jordan Passwaters chases down a ground ball.

Lake responded with three straight goals to knot the game 4-4 at the 4:52 mark of the quarter.

Auen finished the quarter with a hat trick, netting his third goal with just four seconds remaining to give the Spartans a 6-5 lead through the first 12 minutes.

The Bucs out-scored the Spartans 5-1 in the second quarter, taking a 10-7 lead into the halftime break.

Lake Forest registered a pair third quarter goals, cutting into the Bucs’ lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Gaglione scored consecutive goals at the 9:47 and 8:55 mark of the fourth quarter, extending Milford’s advantage to 13-9.

“I was just the finishing part on those plays, because we were just really working the defense around, running and creating mayhem on the field and I just happened to be the one to finish them. Anyone at any point could have finished those goals,” he said.

Just as it seemed the Bucs were pulling away with the win, the Spartans came storming back to score four unanswered goals in the span of under three minutes to tie the game 13-13 with 4:38 remaining.

“Every time we felt like we got comfortable, they kept coming back at us,” Faulkner said. “You just try not to panic, you understand that with who we have we can always make a run just as quick. So we just have to make sure we clean up our mistakes, take care of our possessions and finish our shots.”

Milford defenseman Bevensky Augustin clears the ball against Lake Forest.

Instead of using a timeout to set up a play, Faulkner trusted in his players to continue to do what they’ve been doing.

“I just saw the defense was slacking and I just trusted in myself and stung it, I didn’t really think about it too much,” Herka said of his game-winner.

After taking the lead with over two minutes to play, Copes and the defense made a few stops to close out the win.

“I just knew they had a couple kids who could shoot, and I saw a couple of the shots that were coming off in the first half,” Copes explained. “I kind of just adjusted, followed the shots and was able to save the last couple to win.”

“He closed it out for us,” said Herka. “He came in during a high pressure moment and he executed perfectly. He was calm, relaxed, talked to the defense and made some big saves when he had to. I’m proud of him.”

Hayes, Hajek and Conor Christie each recorded three goals for the Bucs. Christie and Hajek added three assists.

Kade Collins registered three goals and two assists for Lake. Brandon Tice scored two goals, while Kaidan Fullerton and Zyaire Elliott each scored one.

Sophomore Caleb Secrist made 10 saves in goal for Lake Forest.

“We have to fix our mistakes,” said Faulkner. “Way too many things we didn’t do that we need to fix before Friday, because we have another game on Friday and the schedule doesn’t let up.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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