The Clover High School boys’ lacrosse team extended defending state-champion Fort Mill to the limit, but the Yellow Jackets hung on to win 4-2 in the second-round 4A playoff match.
The Blue Eagles led 2-0 at the half, forcing favored Fort Mill to battle back against upstart Clover.
Clover won its the opening-round playoff game last week, defeating Nation Ford 10-8 at home.
With the Blue Eagles leading by two goals and Nation Ford mounting a furious late-game rally, senior Rivington Lambert milked the clock using good field presence, for which the Falcons weren’t prepared.
With Lambert controlling the final 40 seconds and sophomore Griffin Bailey scoring three goals, Clover held on for the win.
It was a gritty performance for Clover before an enthusiastic home crowd.
Competing in its first playoff game, Clover was the aggressor from the outset. Trailing Nation Ford 1-0 in the early stages, the Blue Eagles scored the next five goals to hold the advantage at halftime.
In addition to affecting the game with his stall tactics, Lambert scored a goal and dished out five assists.
Bailey gave out an assist to go with his three goals.
“It’s very exciting to win our opening-round playoff game,” Bailey said. “It was the first experience we’ve had in the playoffs. We came out with a bang. We all work together as one and bring passion to the sport.”
“I have two more years here and hope to play college lacrosse,” he said.
Mark Cavanaugh made his presence felt with the first goal of his career for the Blue Eagles.
Wade Summer had two goals and an assist, and Riley Crysler scored a goal for the home team.
Clover’s Noah Lalli was credited with 13 saves and Nick Margo had two saves.
Senior Aaron Coble said he enjoyed the competition. “I love lacrosse,” he said. “I used to play basketball and football. I jumped onto lacrosse. It’s the most amazing sport ever.
“I wish had picked it up earlier.”
Blue Eagles head coach Matt Lindner, a New York native with a passion for Clover’s new sport, was positive after the playoff loss.
“I am lucky to be here and to be bringing the program in the right direction,” said Lindner. “I tell our boys to keep it constant.”
He said Nation Ford came out in a zone. “We just had to find ourselves, just like in basketball or any other sport,” said Lindner.
Lindner said he hasn’t been surprised by the Blue Eagles’ emergence as playoff participants.
“I had these kids as sophomores,” he said.
“I knew they had talent. I saw the talent and it’s here,” he said. “I was lucky enough to come into this situation, lucky enough to have kids who have experience in the sport.”
Lindner said a great weight-lifting program contributed to the lacrosse success.
“The kids are buying into all of that,” he said.