Detroit Catholic Central wins lacrosse state championship after torrid comeback

Novi Detroit Catholic Central lacrosse players celebrate as Coach Dave Wilson shows off the MHSAA Division 1 state championship trophy. The Shamrocks won the state title with a 14-8 come-from-behind victory over Hartland on Saturday. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to Detroit Catholic)

ANN ARBOR – Lachlan Moffatt couldn’t remember the last time – if ever – that Novi Detroit Catholic Central played a lacrosse game without scoring in the first quarter.

“I don’t think we have, no – we’re used to scoring a lot of goals,” Moffatt, a junior, said. “It was a terrible start. I don’t think we could have started any worse -- zero goals in the first quarter – and we just snapped back. Our senior leadership took over during halftime, and they really got us right.”

Catholic Central (21-3-0) trailed Hartland, 3-0, after the first 12 minutes, and the Eagles continued to hold the lead, 6-3, by halftime of the MHSAA Division 1 lacrosse finals played at University of Michigan on Saturday.

But it didn’t take Moffatt and the rest of the Shamrocks long to respond. Taking the opening possession, he led an upfield rush and fired the ball into the net just 13 seconds after the start of the second half --and that lit a fire underneath.

“That’s the one we needed. That put it 6-4 instead of 7-3, so that’s an absolute big deal,” Coach David Wilson said. “That was a momentum-changer.”

Catholic Central’s Joey Ramirez collects a ground ball after a midfield skirmish causes a Hartland turnover.
Catholic Central’s Joey Ramirez collects a ground ball after a midfield skirmish causes a Hartland turnover.

“It meant everything,” Matt Aleva said. “It just flipped that energy right there. That’s when we knew we were taking over.”

That’s exactly what happened. Catholic Central dominated in the final two periods, outscoring Hartland 11-2 over that stretch to win the state championship by a 14-8 score.

After a Hartland goal with 6:30 remaining in the third period made it 7-5, the Shamrocks rattled off the next seven goals in a 12-minute span, getting three from Luke Zajdel, two from Aleva, and singles from Connor Lukas and Moffatt.

“Our guys just flipped that switch, with the game on the line. Team means everything to us. We just knew we were going to ride or die for this team,” said Aleva, who netted both the game-tying and eventual game-winning goal.

Wilson admitted he didn’t really know what accounted for the shift in play.

“I don’t even know what was with them in the first half, but at halftime I just told them, ‘You either will, or you won’t, and you’ve got to figure it out.’ It’s the last two quarters of Game 7,” he said. “They just needed to play a little better, which I think they knew they could, and they just did it.”

Wilson also credited Hartland’s defense and goalkeeping for keeping the Shamrocks off-guard early.

Lachlan Moffatt rushes the Hartland net in an effort to score. Moffatt scored three goals and added two assists, all during Catholic Central’s second-half comeback.
Lachlan Moffatt rushes the Hartland net in an effort to score. Moffatt scored three goals and added two assists, all during Catholic Central’s second-half comeback.

“We’ve been playing really well all year, but to have a bad first half was uncharacteristic,” Wilson said. “I thought Hartland did a great job holding us to three goals in the first half, that’s quite an achievement. We really weren’t moving off-ball well, but I think some guys just had to take it on their own and stick the ball in the net.”

The Shamrocks possessed the ball continuously and rarely gave Hartland any scoring chances by winning all 14 draws in the second half. For the afternoon, Paddy Denk won 11-of-13 faceoffs and Nick Edwards was 10-of-12.

It’s the second state championship in lacrosse for Catholic Central, who also beat arch-rival Birmingham Brother Rice to win the 2018 final.

“I think people will remember this comeback,” Aleva said. “This team showed so much grit. We were down by three at halftime and we just knew we had to change that switch and get some energy.”

The state championship is the second in Catholic Central’s history. The Shamrocks also beat Birmingham Brother Rice to earn the title in 2018, breaking the streak after the Warriors had won the first 13 championships.
The state championship is the second in Catholic Central’s history. The Shamrocks also beat Birmingham Brother Rice to earn the title in 2018, breaking the streak after the Warriors had won the first 13 championships.

Brother Rice dealt semifinal setback

Saturday’s championship game was nearly as notable for who wasn’t playing in it: Hartland ended defending champion Brother Rice’s season early, 11-10, in Thursday’s semifinal.

“It’s a shock. We don’t step on the field expecting to lose, especially with all the injuries. We try to battle, we’ve done it before, we just didn’t have it today,” Coach Ajay Chawla said. “Unfortunately, it’s lose and go home, and we lost.”

Brother Rice (15-5) never led against Hartland, which pulled out to a two-goal halftime lead, 6-4, and extended it to 10-6 early in the fourth quarter.

Rice made a run with goals by Theo Ley, Jayden Fortino and Nicholas Kovie to close within 10-9 with 5:39 to play. Hartland got one back, but Rice answered when Cash Papdelis fired in a rebound while on his knees, making it 11-10 with 2:16 left.

The Warriors controlled the ensuing draw, but a swarm of Hartland defenders caused a turnover, enabling the Eagles to hold on to the ball for much of the remaining time, running the clock down to 20 seconds. Brother Rice failed to get off a shot in its brief final possession.

“We had opportunities to score. Even down the stretch, we had opportunities to tie it up and take the lead, and we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net,” Chawla said. “Their goalie made a lot of saves. We put a lot of balls in the goalie’s stick or in the goalie’s head, or over the net. We had our opportunities out there and we just didn’t capitalize.”

Birmingham Brother Rice’s Ben Waechter advances the ball upfield as several Hartland defenders give chase. Hartland upset Brother Rice in the state semifinal contest, 11-10.
Birmingham Brother Rice’s Ben Waechter advances the ball upfield as several Hartland defenders give chase. Hartland upset Brother Rice in the state semifinal contest, 11-10.

Brother Rice defeated Hartland, 15-5, back in April, but had lost several key contributors to injuries since then. The Eagles beat the Warriors in the 2022 state finals, becoming the first non-Catholic school to win the Division 1 state title.

“You’ve got to give it to Hartland,” Chawla said. “They came out, they played hard, they got the better of us this year.”

This was the first time since the Michigan High School Athletic Association began sponsoring lacrosse in 2005 that the Warriors weren’t one of the teams playing in the championship final. Brother Rice had won the state title every year since then, except in 2018 and 2022. (The 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)



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