High school boys lacrosse: Watertown defeats South Jefferson battle of unbeatens

May 14—ADAMS — Propelled by an early offensive surge, the Watertown boys lacrosse team continued its dominance in the Frontier League on Tuesday night.

Sparked by Nico Spaziani, who scored the game's first four goals, the Cyclones built a comfortable lead and then outlasted South Jefferson in the second half to prevail, 14-9, in a showdown between the two unbeaten teams in the league.

With the win, Watertown improves to 13-2, including 6-0 in league play, and secured at least a tie for the league title.

"They're definitely a tough team, it's a huge win for us," Cyclones junior midfielder Jack Adams said. "It gives us another chance to get our plaque and go undefeated in the Frontier League. We started out hot and kind of let them into it towards the end, but we held strong and got the win — and that's all that matters."

The Cyclones, who can win the title outright with a win against Lowville on Thursday, now has won at least a share of the league crown for five consecutive seasons.

"Definitely, it's been a big goal since last year when we won the first (undefeated) Frontier League plaque," Spaziani said. "Which was definitely nice and hopefully this year it's back-to-back."

Spaziani, also a junior midfielder, finished with eight points on the night, including five goals.

He had a hand in six of Watertown's nine goals in the first half by tallying his five goals and assisting on another, including scoring an unassisted goal 48 seconds into the game,

"He was lighting it up early in the game and played big for us, we needed him to step up, for sure," Adams said of Spaziani. "He's one of the top players in the section and it's great to have him on our team."

After Spaziani carried the Cyclones to a 4-0 lead, with Adams assisting on two of the goals, Cobin O'Brien answered with a goal 58 seconds into the second quarter, with Andre Watts assisting.

But Watertown responded by generating a five-goal surge to lead 9-1 on a goal from Kage Loftus, back-to-back goals from Adams, a tally from Spaziani and another from Loftus, with Spaziani assisting with 46.1 seconds left in the half.

Adams finished with two goals and an assist, Loftus scored three goals and Jack Rathbun tallied three goals and an assist.

"We felt great early, we were getting the looks that we wanted to get and we were shooting the ball very well during the first half," Watertown coach Brian Navarra said. "And then in second half they had a lot of possession and they were beating us on ground balls, loose balls and that's how they kind of stayed in it."

Leading 9-2 at halftime, the Cyclones scored the first three goals of the third quarter to lead by 10 and then held a 13-3 lead on a man-up goal from Loftus with 10 minutes and 46 seconds remaining in regulation.

But undaunted, the Spartans responded by generating a six-goal run — on three tallies from Chase Waite, two from Watts and one from Chase Bickle — to close within 13-9 on a goal from Watts.

"They've always been a good opponent against us," Spaziani said of South Jefferson. "We played a lot of defense tonight, so we got really tired and then they took advantage of that."

Cyclones freshman goalie Norman Cushman made several key stops down the stretch to keep South Jefferson at bay and finished with eight saves to record the win.

"Our defense has been great for the most part all year and they stuck together tonight," Navarra said. "Our defense is strong and there's a lot of leaders back there and they communicate well. And Norman made a couple huge saves, especially at the very end, that was humongous and Norman has been doing that all year. And not that we take it for granted, but we just expect him to make those saves and he does, and it's amazing, it's amazing what he's doing."

South Jefferson (11-3, 5-1) won the possession game on faceoffs by claiming 16 of 27 draws on the night, including six straight when it made its run in the final quarter.

Waite finished with four goals and two assists for the Spartans, Watts tallied two goals and an assist and junior goalie Noah Cousins made 10 saves.

"Credit to them, they worked their tails off, especially in that second half," Navarra said. "I think that's really the character of their team. They really did well on faceoffs, Livingston did a great job and he was winning the ball to himself forward and backward, so they controlled possession and quite honestly they tired out our defense a little bit, we played a lot of defense."

"I think defensively, we've really turned it on," Adams said. "You didn't see it here in the second half, but we've stepped up there and really all around as a team we started working better together."

Now Watertown has the opportunity to finish undefeated in the Frontier League for the second straight season after recording a perfect 10-0 mark last year.

"That would be awesome, that would be everything, the whole season we've been working for that," senior Antonio Marzano said. "To do it two years in a row would be something historic, something real nice. Because a lot of the guys are the same guys on the team from last year."

"That's really cool, it's something that we work for and we strive for every year," Adams said. "That's why we work so hard in the summer and the offseason, it's really one of our main goals going into the year."

Overall, the Cyclones have now won 17 consecutive league games dating back to the 2022 season.

"It's huge, it's huge," Navarra said. "That's one of the goals of every team at Watertown High School in athletics, if you go undefeated in the Frontier League, the booster club buys plaques for everybody, that's always been a huge motivation for all our teams. We got our first one last year and we're looking to get another one here, it's big for the kids, they love that."

"It feels amazing since last year was the first plaque in program history so we want to continue the legacy," Spaziani said.

This season, Watertown's only losses have been in double overtime to East Syracuse-Minoa, as well as a road loss to perennial sectional and state power West Genesee.

"We're deep this year, we've got a lot of good players that can go and that can play and that really helps us," Adams said. "It's going to help us going into sectionals."

The Cyclones, who have lost in the sectional semifinal round the past three years, are hoping for a favorable sectional seeding when pairings for the playoffs are announced Monday.

"Other than those six minutes today, I feel really good, I like where we're at," Navarra said. "We need to tighten some things up certainly and defenses are going to start throwing a lot of things at us, double-polling Jack and Nico a lot and they're stepping up and other guys are stepping up. We feel confident in our offense and our defense, it's just kind of the loose balls, the ground balls that we need to clean up, that sort of thing.

"But we're excited, so hopefully we'll get a top three seed in sectionals and we'll see where the chips fall."

Meanwhile, South Jefferson is enjoying a strong season after winning eight games last year. The Spartans went on to beat Indian River in the first round of sectionals before being edged by General Brown, 11-10, in a Class D quarterfinal.