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Cougars Complete Sweep of Raiders

Lebanon High defender Joe Grout attempts to ride Kearsarge's Justin Norris out of bounds Saturday morning in North Sutton. The host Cougars won the NHIAA Division III game, 12-5, their second defeat of the Raiders in three days. Valley News - Tris Wykes

Lebanon High defender Joe Grout attempts to ride Kearsarge's Justin Norris out of bounds Saturday morning in North Sutton. The host Cougars won the NHIAA Division III game, 12-5, their second defeat of the Raiders in three days. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »

North Sutton, n.h. — Bypassing an opponent intent on knocking it down, the Kearsarge High boys lacrosse team beat Lebanon, 12-5, on Saturday, the Cougars’ second victory over their NHIAA Division III rival in three days. Freshman Justin Norris had five goals and three assists and Travis Newman had four goals as the hosts ran out to leads of 4-0 and 11-2 before easing off the gas.

Thursday, the Raiders’ fourth-quarter comeback fell short in a 7-6 loss. Lebanon committed 14 penalties to Kearsarge’s six and is averaging just fewer than 11 per game, which led the Cougars to alter their approach.

“I think we played a little scared because we weren’t ready with their physicality,” said Kearsarge midfielder Bryson Barthol of the teams’ first meeting. “This time, we took it to them and coped by keeping the ball in the air. You can get caught up in (contact) but you have to remember that it’s not always a game about being physical.”

A few of Lebanon’s players swing their sticks as if they’re wielding axes and take themselves out of position in pursuit of big hits. The Raiders (1-2) also earned a two-minute, non-releasable penalty Saturday when one of them cursed out an opponent within earshot of a referee. They finished with nine of the contest’s 12 fouls.

Lebanon may not win the division’s sportsmanship award, but first-year coach Lochrane Gary doesn’t apologize for his team’s tactics.

“Lacrosse is the sport of war,” said Gary, an Orlando, Fla., native and personal trainer at a local gym who played club lacrosse at Florida State in 2006-07. “That’s how it was invented, and I don’t shy away from it and I tell my players to have that attitude as well.

“We play an aggressive breed of lacrosse here and it’s going to hamper us sometimes, but we’re an excellent man-down team, so I’m not too worried about it. You hope for fewer than 10 penalties per game and if we have more, we discuss ways to solve it at practice.”

Fifth-year Kearsarge coach Mike Heffernan instructed his players to keep their heads on a swivel, keep their emotions in check and keep the ball in the air.

“Thursday was so physical that we played a little tentative and you were looking at the guy on you and not your teammate,” said Heffernan, whose squad is 3-1. “You collapsed into a little cocoon to protect yourself. That’s the beauty of hitting successive passes in lacrosse. You don’t have to worry about (physical play) as much, because they can’t catch up to you.

“If you play this game on the ground, you’re in trouble. You get hurt down there.”

The Cougars stung their visitors by scoring four times during the first six minutes and eight times in the first 20. Lebanon goaltender Kyler Tang struggled early but, like his team, displayed improved composure and execution as the wet contest rolled on.

Gary said in the preseason that he was looking to “bring a new breed of lacrosse to the Upper Valley” and has promised “a big turnaround” from last season’s 1-13 record under sixth-year coach Nick Yager. Lebanon’s 2012 team was 9-5 and reached the playoffs.

“We’re playing fast, aggressive lacrosse and we’re going to move the ball often and it’s going to help us score goals,” Gary said. “I don’t think they were doing that here in previous years. Today, we just made more mistakes than Kearsarge did on ground balls and in time of possession and it cost us the game.”

Lebanon’s Nate Damren had two goals and an assist, Tate Singleton had a goal and two assists and Lucas Gerow and Ryan Damren also scored. Kearsarge received 10 saves from Will Aufranc, a goal and five assists from Andrew Van Hooydonk and single tallies from Tristan Rowe and Lucas Muzzey.

Notes: Rowe’s goal was unusual. Not only was it scored with a long pole, but the shot bounced off both posts before finding the twine. … Gary’s biography on his employer’s website describes how he lost more than 100 pounds as a teenager and went on to become a “marathon runner, power lifter, motivator and fitness club owner” before taking his current position. … Kearsarge plays Stevens in a varsity game Monday, but because the Cardinals don’t have a junior varsity squad, the Cougars’ jayvees will clash with counterparts from Hartford. … Sam Morgan, a junior attackman at Goucher (Md.) College and a former Kearsarge standout, leads the Gophers (6-7) in scoring with 23 goals and 13 assists.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.