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Defense leads ’Jackets to win over O’Dowd

By Jared Green, Daily Planet Staff
Saturday April 13, 2002

Hard-hitting Berkeley takes over first place in Shoreline League 


Staunch defense and penalty killing keyed a huge win for the Berkeley High boys’ lacrosse team on Friday, as the ’Jackets took a big step towards a league title with a 6-2 defeat of Bishop O’Dowd in Berkeley. 

After giving up the only goal of the first quarter, Berkeley (8-2 overall, 2-0 SLL) shut down the high-powered O’Dowd offense for 31 minutes, scoring a variety of goals to go up 6-1. The Dragons’ two top scorers, Pat Bird and Nick Stratton, were nearly shut out, with Bird getting a lone assist on his team’s second goal with the game already in Berkeley’s clutches. 

“Our defense just played great today,” Berkeley head coach Jon Rubin said. “Our philosophy was to make them beat us with tough passes, and we just didn’t let them get near the goal.” 

Rubin awarded the game ball to defenseman Demetrius Sommers, whose frenetic play changed the pace of the game every time the ball found an O’Dowd (1-1 SLL) stick. Sommers created at least 10 turnovers all by himself, and his man-marking of Stratton kept the league’s second-leading scorer completely off the board. The Dragons got just six shots on goal in the game. 

“We knew that they really had two good players on offense, and we needed to shut them down,” Sommers said. “Their other players are mediocre on offense, so we just took (Bird and Stratton) out of the game.” 

Sommers, who was moved to defense last season because of his non-stop motor and hard-hitting ways, seemed to be everywhere against the Dragons, leaving Stratton to lay several huge hits on O’Dowd midfielders in transition. 

“Having Demetrius is like having three extra players out there,” Rubin said. “He plays like a college player, and he’s just a junior.” 

The ’Jackets’ offense sputtered through the first quarter, but Berkeley’s athleticism gave them their first goal. An O’Dowd turnover quickly turned into a Berkeley fast break, with Calvin Gaskin finding Noah Flessell in front of the goal for an easy score to tie the game. After Berkeley won the ensuing faceoff, Nick Schooler added to his league-leading point total with a long shot for a 2-1 lead. 

Berkeley’s next goal came off of and O’Dowd turnover as well. Already a man down on a penalty, the Dragons gave the ball up to Berkeley’s Sam Gellar, who sprinted the length of the field before denting the net. When Jesse Cohen scored off of a spin move with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, Berkeley took a 4-1 lead into halftime. 

Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Berkeley was dealt a serious blow when midfielder Cameran Sampson was penalized for an illegal stick between periods. The penalty put the ’Jackets down a man for the first three minutes of the final quarter, but two careless turnovers by the Dragons and Berkeley’s quick rotation on defense kept O’Dowd from even getting a shot off during Sampson’s penance. Berkeley killed four penalties in the game. 

“Everything’s rosy, and then we get nailed with an equipment penalty,” Rubin said. “But the defense really stepped up and got it done.” 

When Dan Vilar scored on yet another Berkeley fast break with eight minutes left in the game, O’Dowd’s chance at a comeback was dead. Gellar scored again, this time on a long shot, a minute later for a 6-1 lead and a claim on first place in the Shoreline Lacrosse League. 

With the league’s other two teams, College Prep and Piedmont, fielding brand-new programs, the SLL title will most likely come down to the Berkeley-O’Dowd rematch on May 2 in Oakland. Sommers thinks the ’Jackets’ convincing win on Friday gives them a leg up for that game. 

“I think we’ve got it over them mentally now,” he said. “They know they’ll have to step up their game to play with us.”