Derryfield boys earn another title shot

Senior Tad Faulkner keeps the ball away from a Winnacunnet player during the Cougars’ 13-4 semifinal win on Wednesday./Stacy Harrison photo

NASHUA, NH – For the 10th time in the last 15 years, the Derryfield School boys lacrosse team will battle for the state championship.

That, after the second-ranked Cougars (17-2) dispatched upstart Winnnacunnet (13-6), 13-4, in the state semifinals Wednesday at Nashua’s Sellos Stadium.

And for the third year in a row, and fifth time in the last eight seasons, it will be the Clippers of Portsmouth High School standing between Derryfield and another banner.

But first, the Cougars had to reach the final, and in typical Derryfield fashion, it wasn’t just one player leading the charge during the semifinal victory against the sixth-ranked Warriors.

Seven players, in fact, contributed to the final score, with Chili Cabot once again leading the way with three goals and three assists, while Ryan Macwell and RJ Proulx also found the back of the net three times, the latter having also provided two helpers.

John Kramer, Cooper Ketcham and Michael Grunbeck also scored, and Max Fowler supplied a goal and an assist in the contest.

Senior Michael Grunbeck celebrates a goal Wednesday night with classmate Tad Faulkner./Stacy Harrison photo

The Warriors attempted to limit the Cougars’ potent attack by playing a zone defense in the first half, which did limit the favorites to three goals in the first quarter, but the game began to open a bit in the second quarter as Derryfield added four goals and Winnacunnet scored two of their own to head into halftime with the score at 7-2.

In the second half, Winnacunnet head coach Pat Snow changed to a man-to-man defense.

“It’s weird, you get used to playing zone and then you’ve got to switch into attack, and you’ve got a lead so you know, the whole idea is they want us to speed up to maybe turn the ball over and give them more chances,” said longtime Derryfield head coach Chris Hettler. “They knew if they stayed in a zone, we could just bleed the clock like we did in the first half.”

Though the decision certainly opened the field a bit, scoring remained fairly consistent, with Derryfield outscoring the Warriors, by identical 3-1 scores in both the third and fourth quarters.

“Unfortunately, today, we ran into a team that played well, and we just didn’t have our best stuff on either side of the ball,” said Snow. “I give credit to their keeper (Parker Lebiedz). He had some nice saves early that I think set the tone early.”

Lebiedz stopped 17 of 21 Winnacunnet shots on net, while Logan Purvis won 15 of 21 face-off attempts to help the Cougars maintain possession for the much of the contest.

Tim Kollmeger, Lucas Botnick and Nolan Rennie each scored for the Warriors, while Noah Andronaco made six saves.

Junior Tyler Marsden has been an important midfield cog for Cougars this season./Stacy Harrison photo

The Cougars, who have beaten the Clippers three of the four times the two have competed in the championship game over the last eight seasons, now look to take the rubber-match in the most recent three-title-game set. Portsmouth won, 16-10 in 2022, but Derryfield bounced back to reclaim the D-II throne in a wild 2023 finale that saw the Cougars exact revenge, 12-11, in overtime.

The 2024 D-II championship game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Saturday at Stellos Stadium in Nashua.

“We’ll be ready,” said Hettler. “The guys have been working hard all season and we know we’ve got a big challenge and obviously we’ve played Portsmouth in the past and they present matchups just all over the field … It’ll be a battle. I think its going to be a great game.”

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