WILLIAMSVILLE — Salamanca already had a formidable opponent, making its third consecutive trip to the sectional final, in its way Wednesday night. Then the Warriors lost their senior star attackman.
The Warriors climbed back from an early 3-1 deficit in the Section 6 Class D boys lacrosse championship, tying Eden 3-3 early in the second quarter. But less than 90 seconds into the quarter, Salamanca senior Keelan Seneca fell to the turf at Williamsville East, apparently injuring his left knee. He briefly re-entered the game at the end of the quarter, but heavily favored that knee and didn’t return in the second half.
With Seneca, a University of Albany recruit, sidelined, the Raiders took advantage, especially in the second half, when Eden outscored Salamanca 8-2 en route to a 15-6 victory, its first sectional title in program history.
Larry Wheeler, Salamanca co-head coach, said Seneca “tweaked his left knee pretty good,” but didn’t know more about his status.
“Obviously losing Keelan early in the game made a huge difference,” Wheeler said. “Other kids stepped up, it’s just immeasurable losing him so early in the game. But we have a lot of underclassmen coming up next year and we’re looking at just continuing to build a program here.”
Eden controlled possession for most of the game, starting in the face-off circle.
“I think they won all but two or three face-offs and when you can’t control the face-off circle, it’s hard to control possession time with the ball,” Wheeler said of the Warriors’ possession woes. “The defense stepped up during that time, it just wore away at us not being able to possess the ball for very long. (We had) trouble with clearing, but overall, I have to go back to losing Keelan.”
Senior midfielder Colby Sroda led No. 3 Eden (12-7) with six goals and an assist, and dominated face-offs for the Raiders.
“We knew that Salamanca could hang goals on you, so the plan was to keep the ball,” Eden coach Chris Archabald said. “Colby winning face-offs was really helpful in that plan and we just had long possessions that were trying to keep the ball in our end. The gameplan was that simple, let’s just keep the ball away from a really dangerous Salamanca team.”
Amos Whitcomb (two assists), Xavier Taylor (assist) and Ben Miller scored two goals each for Salamanca (13-3). Nate Kettle chipped in an assist.
Jacob Rozler made 14 saves in net for the top-seeded Warriors.
Wheeler acknowledged Seneca’s injury had an effect on the Warriors beyond his impact on the field.
“He's always been a leader, so to see him go down took the wind out of a lot of kids' sails,” Wheeler said. “Xavier stepped up, Amos stepped up. But obviously it's tough to lose a key player like that.”
Salamanca made its first appearance in the sectional championship since 2014, when the Warriors lost a narrow 17-15 game with Akron in the Class C final. Even with seven seniors graduating, Wheeler hopes the Warriors have enough young talent to build on this breakthrough season.
“We have a successful modified program,” he said, “have a couple kids who didn't come out during the regular season that are going to be 10th graders next year, and they're great box players. You just fold them into the field game.”
Eden plays Section 5 champion Penn Yan on Saturday in the Far West Regional at 5:30 p.m. at St. John Fisher College.
The Raiders were the only team in the Section 6 Class D bracket Salamanca didn’t play in its league, as Eden switched to an independent schedule. Archabald thought that schedule helped prepare his team for a big game like Wednesday’s.
“It put us in a lot of tough games,” Archabald said. “So we had a lot of experience with how to react with our bench, with our adjustments on the field. That was the big change in culture for us, to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and be more ready for a game like tonight.
“They put a good scare on us in the first half there. I’m really hoping that Keelan’s alright. I only got to see him really tonight but it didn’t take long to recognize what a star he is and just a really cool player to watch. So it was unfortunate that he tweaked his knee because he’s got a bright future ahead of him. And they have a lot of pieces around him, so I think that’s another thing we didn’t realize until we saw them tonight, that Seneca’s the quarterback but there’s a lot of other guys out there that are dangerous too. They’re a good team. We’re happy to get out of here with a win.”