CHESHIRE — When the unbeaten No. 3 boys lacrosse team in the state needed a little more Tuesday night, it looked to Ryan Thompson.
The Staples junior midfielder was one of four freshmen on the team that went to the Class L semifinals in 2019. That, said coach Will Koshansky, helped make sure he wouldn’t arrive for this season — after the state lost last year’s lacrosse season to the COVID-19 pandemic — with any timidity.
“Ryan’s really stepped up,” Koshansky said after Tuesday’s 12-9 win at Cheshire. “We knew he had that in him. He played a heck of a game all over the field.
“He also picked up tough ground balls. We’ve asked him to play a lot of defense, a lot of faceoff wings. He’s all over the field. You see why he’s so highly touted as such a great player.”
Thompson scored three fourth-quarter goals that let the Wreckers (5-0) break it open after No. 8 Cheshire (4-1) came back from a deficit as deep as four goals to tie the game at 8 in the third quarter.
“Going into the fourth quarter, we knew we needed to bring a little juice,” Thompson said. “This was the first time this year we’ve faced adversity. We went the right way.”
Thompson isn’t a year-round lacrosse player but a three-sport athlete. He played point guard for the Wreckers in basketball this winter. He’s also a football quarterback in the fall, following his older brothers, Daniel, who’s a wide receiver at Middlebury, and Mike, a defensive back at Wesleyan.
“I don’t get much time to play lacrosse in the offseason, but I know I can get it done,” Thompson said. “Whatever role I need to play, I’ll do.
“And when you’re out there, honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big role. It feels like playing lacrosse.”
The fourth-quarter goals Tuesday came in a span of 3:21 to turn a 9-8 game into an easier victory.
“If you asked prior to the season if Ryan Thompson was going to get a pole” — assigned one of four long-stick defenders instead of one of two short-stick defenders — “from the other team, you’d probably say no,” Koshansky said. “All game long, they were stressing to get a pole on him. When they didn’t, he made them pay.”
Cheshire — which got 15 players back from quarantine on Tuesday — got back into the game with help from three man-up goals.
“After the game ends, we’re looking to the next one to make sure we play even better, look back at what we did wrong and things we can improve,” Koshansky said.
The next one after this one: No. 1 Darien on Thursday at Staples.
Staples had a big advantage at the faceoff X with Vermont-commit junior Henry Dodge.
“He’s great, man,” Cheshire coach Mike Devine said. “That’s what we saw on film the entire time, ‘we’ve got to find a way to control Dodge.’ He was a game-changer.”
Devine estimated that the Rams had the ball for about 12 out of 48 minutes. Staples’ edge wasn’t quite that pronounced in shots, but Cheshire went long stretches without one.
“Their faceoff guy (Aidan Gaudet), I know, is a fantastic faceoff guy,” Koshansky said. “Henry has gone up against some pretty good guys and faced off at a high percentage. ‘
“We ask him to be an athlete out there, too,” the coach added, “not just clamp the ball and get it to someone else.”
GETTING THEM IN
This game might not have happened, with those 15 Rams in quarantine (they played and won a couple of games short-handed), but Staples had some openings with a couple of FCIAC teams on pause.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse. We’ve got to be ready to play from the start,” Devine said.
“We had 15 guys quarantined. We battled here tonight. There are a lot of positives we can build on.”
“That’s the M.O. of Cheshire. That’s kind of what we’re built on and what we’ve always been built on. We’re going to chip away. We’re a bend-don’t-break kind of program. That’s a great Staples team. That’s why we wanted to schedule them.” —Cheshire coach Mike Devine