By Brian Dzenis
A few friends wanted to try a different sport in the springtime.
In a nutshell, that’s the origin story of Canfield boys lacrosse. It’s also the reason a lot of players signed on.
“I like the idea of being able to help the team out,” Cardinals goalie Ryan Shidemantle said. “I know they were hurting for a goalie and they needed to beef up that position. My friends told me they wanted me to play and I decided to give it a go.”
The Cardinals played their first varsity contest on Saturday, a 15-14 defeat at the hands of Stow-Munroe Falls. The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced last May that it would sanction the sport this spring. Canfield, Poland, Boardman and Cardinal Mooney each field girls and boys teams.
Canfield’s program spent the past four years as a club team before the sport became sanctioned by the OHSAA and fully accepted at the high school.
“You feel vindicated,” Canfield coach Dennis Peebles said. “You worked so hard in the last four years to get the school system to look at the sport and take it seriously.
“The OHSAA pushing schools to take it as a varsity sport helped,” Peebles said. “It’s our first year of varsity sports, and it’s a great moment.”
Senior Matt Nielson scored the team’s first varsity goal at 9:29 in the first quarter off a feed from Jarod Donchess.
“It’s something,” Nielson said. “[Donchess] was coming down on the fast break and I was open for a shot so I got the ball and did what I had to do.”
Neilson’s teammate, Alex Petrallo, won the ensuing faceoff and in nine seconds, Canfield was up 2-0. What followed was what can be expected at any lacrosse game, some quick play and plenty of goals.
“There’s not a lot of low-scoring in lacrosse. It gets into double digits,” Peebles said. “It’s very exciting. It’s called the fastest sport on two feet, and it’s growing like wildfire around the country.”
Stow relied on three players to do the heavy lifting on the score sheet, while Canfield turned in a balanced effort.
Petrallo is the program’s all-time leading scorer with a hat trick and an assist. Nielson, Donchess, Stone Elias, Clay Cutrer and Brennan Klingensmith each scored twice. Stow’s Chase Stoll put up six goals and two assists. Jacob Perch had a hat trick and Declan Tubbs had two goals and four assists for the winning side.
Shidemantle made 18 saves in his debut in goal — varsity or otherwise.
“It’s fun, but it was tough. I heard all the stories Stow had to bring and the game we played last year,” the sophomore netminder said. “I was happy that I could cut the lead down, but I’m a little because there were some shots I should have had.”
Stow is considered a Division I team while Canfield is Div. II. The two teams met last year in a scrimmage and Stow rolled the Cardinals for a 33-1 win.
“For a lot of the sophomores and juniors, that was their first taste [of the sport],” Peebles said. “They’ve dramatically improved their skill level and the end of last year to now and they’re going to form a good core group.”
With the team’s feet wet in varsity life, the Cardinals’ goals are the same as in any sport.
“We just want to go as far as we can. Maybe we go to state,” Nielson said.