BY JOHN HOUGH WEEKLY REPORTER
O’FALLON – After starting the 2017 season 2-1, the O’Fallon Panthers boys lacrosse team took a 21-3 beating over the talented De Smet Spartans at O’Fallon Township High School last Friday night. Despite the game being one-sided, head coach Jim McIntyre found some positives to take away.
“While the score was exceedingly lopsided, and you’re never pleased about the scoreboard, we’re very young. We lost a tremendous amount to graduation, and this was a great opportunity for these kids to overcome adversity. We’re going to see more teams right with [De Smet]. It’s good for them to see that and I was proud that they kept on fighting, tried to execute our game plan against a very, very good opponent.”
For a vast majority of the contest, O’Fallon was pinned in their half, and it was tough to get anything going. The Panthers went down 4-0 early in the first quarter, but Andrew Smith got the home team on the board with 6:10 to play in the first frame. Soon after, De Smet responded with seven straight goals and took command of the game. However, in the final three minutes of the first half, O’Fallon scored twice courtesy of Nick Carducci and Bryan Kalkwarf and trailed 11-3 at halftime. They ended the first half well, but the Spartans would ultimately wear down O’Fallon as they tallied ten goals in the second half and continued to dominate possession.
This was always going to be an uphill climb for the Panthers because of their massive youth and several rookie lacrosse players, but according to McIntyre they have gone in head first and have been working hard from the get-go.
“We had four kids on the field who had never played lacrosse before, arguably playing against one of the best teams in the state [of Missouri]. Our starting attack played JV last year and we pulled up four kids from JV, and they responded. They got out there and gave it a go, and that’s what high school sports is all about.”
O’Fallon is coming off a remarkable 11-4 season that saw them make it all the way to the Missouri State Championship game, which they lost to Priory 7-6. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost a lot of key players, and this year’s roster is significantly smaller. That also includes a decent amount of injured players, but McIntyre refuses to complain and remains upbeat.
“Our numbers are low this year so managing the player personnel when we already have a significant number of injuries between a JV and a varsity squad [is difficult]. I’m proud of how hard they are playing.”
The loss to De Smet takes O’Fallon’s record to 2-2 on the season. They lost their first game of the campaign to Webster Groves 12-6, but then defeated Belleville West 8-2 and Parkway West 8-4. One can assume that is a decent achievement given that the Panthers have a huge load of newcomers to the varsity level and the game itself.
“The story of the season so far is when you have some kids that are playing at the upper level, playing alongside a kid who is learning to catch and throw. When you have 14 brand new players show up a month ago and say, ‘okay guys our first game is in two weeks,’ that’s a lot for them to take on. It would have been easy for them to say I’m not going to do this, trying a new thing is scary and I’m not going to be successful. They’re out here, working hard and getting better every single day.”
The Panthers bring back some key contributors from last year’s state runner-up team and several newcomers that are starting to fill out well just after a couple weeks of practice.
“There were the knowns; the Klausner’s and the Lindsey’s and Smith’s and the Van Etten’s would do a very good job. They’re just very good players. Some of the surprises have been kids that you weren’t expecting to be where they’re at right now. Our goalie [Sam Feathers] had a rough night, but he’s really developed. He was one of those diamonds in the rough, not sure what we’re going to have, but here we are. There’s probably ten other kids that are just like that.”
O’Fallon has one game next week and will travel to Fox High School in Arnold, MO to take on the Warriors on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.