Coyne's Pick: Limestone Parties Like 2002
|In his second season in Gaffney,
S.C., J.B. Clarke has Limestone playing for a national title. The
Saints ability to play comfortably within any tempo has been
critical this spring, and will be the difference on
© John Strohsacker
"It was a quarter for the ages."
That's how Limestone head coach J.B. Clarke described the second stanza of the May 6 game between the Saints and Dowling. Seven different players scored a goal as Limestone outscored the Lions, 8-1 in the fateful quarter, which was essentially the difference in the Saints' 15-7 triumph that day.
"You can watch it 100 times and decide what happened, but it didn't have anything to do with what we did from the sidelines, I can tell you that," Clarke said. "It was just a bizarre quarter."
"There was a lot that went great for Limestone, and J.B. did a good job because his kids reacted well, but that second quarter was really a bad one for us," admitted Dowling head coach Tim Boyle. "We're hoping that we won't have that type of breakdown again."
"That second quarter did kill us," added Dowling FOGO Lou Riley. "You take that second quarter away and it's pretty much a tie game."
Does Dowling have the discipline and talent to prevent Limestone from putting together a similar run at some point?
The short answer is yes, but they'll need to have superb play from Riley and goalie Ryan Dougherty. If Jake Ternosky can control faceoffs against Riley and Dougherty is not sharp, Limestone's offensive will eventually wear down the Lions.
In year's past, giving up a big lead to the Saints wasn't quite as prohibitive as it is now. Even earlier this spring, opponents knew that, just like a loose poker player, they were going to get another shot at getting back what they had lost. Limestone had a comfortable lead over Merrimack in the fourth quarter only to see the Warriors race all the way back and take a 12-11 victory – the only blemish on the Saints 17-1 record.
"One of the differences between this year and last year is we couldn't turn off the speed," said Clarke. "We were all green light and no red light. We played Merrimack this year and it was the best thing that could have happened to us. Our guys were not able to turn off the green light. We got a lead by three or four goals with 10 minutes to play and we're still making silly transition decisions. Now we're able to play to other team's pace and still create goals."
If there is one thing that Dowling has to its advantage in this second go around on Sunday is the revenge factor, although Boyle tries to avoid that term.
"We've been talking about it every since that day, talking about the opportunity to avenge – we don't talk about revenge – a loss," Boyle said. "Most people won't get this opportunity to do this even once in their life, and we get the opportunity to avenge two losses in the same season and do it in the semifinals and finals. It's kind of special.
"I don't think the kids have lost sight of that. That day on May 6 really helped us refocus. I'm confident that we won't have that type of breakdown again. Hopefully we can limit the awe-factor and we can have them as focused as possible. It's a job. As great as it is to be there and enjoy the other stuff, we're there to bring this school the championship because it deserves it."
Can the revenge, er, avenge factor be good enough for an eight-goal swing?
Stranger things have happened, and I could definitely envision something like that occuring with previous editions of Limestone, but this team has a new look. It still has the high-powered offense led by Riley Loewen and Shayne Jackson, but it now has the best faceoff man in the country in Jake Ternosky and a quality netminder in Steve Gartelman.
Most importantly, the team is starting to adapt to Clarke, who is in his second year. He has brought a slightly more conservative mindset to the run-and-gun Saints, allowing them to harness their full potential.
The pace will be more in Dowling's favor in this second edition, but it will Limestone holding the Walnut and Bronze aloft for the first time since 2002 when the final whistle blows, 10-8.