DOVER — When Cape Henlopen traveled to Wilmington to face Salesianum in boys lacrosse on April 19, the Sals led, 10-6, after three quarters, only to see the Vikings battle back to tie. A goal with 9.8 seconds left gave the Sals the win that night.
In the DIAA state championship game on May 27, Cape owned the third quarter, forging a 7-7 tie with three goals while holding the Sals scoreless. This time, however, second-seeded Salesianum went on the fourth-quarter run, scoring four straight before holding off the No. 5 Vikings for a 12-10 victory and the trophy in front of a packed house at Dover High School.
The Sals recaptured the title they had lost two years ago to Cape Henlopen by an identical 12-10 score at Caesar Rodney High School. It was the school’s 11th state championship, the 10th under coach Bob Healy since 2007. It was the seventh time Salesianum and Cape played for the crown.
The Sals had an encouraging start as Griffin McGovern scored just 23 seconds into the contest. After Cape tied it up, Salesianum ripped off the next five goals, with Caelan Driggs making it 6-1 with 8:08 to go in the first half.
But deficits did not really affect Cape Henlopen this season. They defeated the top seed, Sanford, in the semifinal last Saturday after climbing out of a similar score. The Vikings scored the next three goals, two of them by Jaden Davis, before McGovern closed out the first-half scoring a man-up goal that made it 7-4. Cape owned the third quarter, getting some big saves from goalkeeper Michael Sposato, then tying the score on a Hank D’Ambrogi goal with 1:08 to go.
Cape spent much of the night shooting from long distance, one of the few wrinkles that surprised Salesianum goalkeeper Wyatt Skinner.
“This is pretty much what I expected,” he said. “They were shooting from a little bit father out. It caught me off-guard a little bit. They were pulling it a little more. But it was basically the same shot locations.”
In the decisive fourth quarter, Driggs broke the tie a minute and a half in, taking a pass from Charles Ruoss, spinning and beating Sposato. The play began with Skinner carrying the ball nearly to midfield before hitting Ruoss with a pass.
Cape tied the score just 47 seconds later when Jacob Schell tallied on a delayed Salesianum penalty. But the Sals roared back, much to the delight of their large student section. Matt Riley won the next faceoff, and he ended up scoring the goal after coming from behind the net, splitting two defensemen, crossing in front of Sposato and going high while taking a hit. Colby Bushweller added to the lead at the 8:02 mark, shooting through a screen.
Riley, the Sals’ faceoff specialist, said he made an adjustment to win more of those battles after Cape’s success in the third.
“I needed to be a little bit quicker with my hands, take a little pressure off of them so I could come down a little bit quicker on the ball and take a quicker first rotation,” he said.
Bushweller’s goal was it for the next three minutes until Dylan Mooney grabbed the spotlight. Mooney found a sliver of an opening on a short-side goal, tucking the ball into the upper corner to extend the lead to 11-8. Finally, with 3:51 to go, it was Mooney again. This time, he snuck in behind the defense, ended up with the ball on some tic-tac-toe passing and one-timed it for a four-goal advantage.
The Vikings, however, were not done, and the championship celebration would have to wait. Skinner made a spectacular save with three minutes left, and that was magnified a minute later when D’Amborgi scored on a spin move at the 2:04 mark.
Salesianum took a penalty with 1:15 left, and the Vikings wasted no time scoring a man up. This time, it was Gabe Best on a low long-distance shot that cut the Sals’ lead to two. But Skinner came up with two more big stops in the final minute, and, after the final save with a few seconds to go, he heaved the ball into the night as time expired.
“As soon as the last shot hit my stick, I turned back and saw about two seconds left and let it fly. I threw that thing as hard and as high as I could. I immediately ran to the student section; it’s the best thing I ever felt in my life. Best night of my life,” Skinner said.
The rest of his team joined him along the fence at Dover Stadium for the lacrosse team’s first championship since 2018.
“We’ve waited a very long time for this game, and we did it. We did it,” Driggs said.
Final statistics for the Sals were not available Friday morning. Unoffically, Driggs led the way with four goals. Mooney, Griffin McGovern and Rowyn Nurry had two each, and Bushweller and Riley had one apiece. The Sals finished the season 14-3.
Davis had a hat trick for the Vikings, and D’Ambrogi added a pair. Will Bragg, Best, Mikey Frederick, Blake Gipko and Schell all had one. Cape’s season ended at 13-5.