When York Suburban head coach Frank Corto called a timeout with his team trailing by two goals in the dwindling moments against West York on Thursday, the message contained a lot more than just X’s and O’s.
It was Suburban’s fourth game in as many days — sixth in eight days — and for a team missing 18 players because of injuries and suspensions, being competitive on the final day of the marathon week was an achievement by itself.
Though Suburban (9-7 overall, 8-5 York-Adams League) only got a single goal back and eventually succumbed to the Bulldogs (7-10, 5-9), 14-13, in a game emblematic of its up-and-down, adversity-laden campaign, Corto was still proud of his team.
Through everything, his squad still found a way to grind until the end.
“I told these guys, win or lose, I’m proud of them,” Corto said. “I’ve been coaching for a long time, over 25 years, and I can’t be more proud of the guys we have on the field right now. They played their hearts out.”
On April, 11 Trojans were suspended for a school rules violation, pillaging a roster that was at one time a district championship contender and forcing the squad to draw from its junior varsity team to finish out the season.
The impact was immediate. After starting 7-1 and peaking at No. 2 in the district power ratings, the rash roster changes led to four straight losses. With depth already diminished, seven more players were injured. Then starting defender Joe Shearer left Thursday's game with a head injury in the first quarter and didn't return, compounding the depth problems.
Hanging tough: Still, Suburban has hung tough.
“When you lose as much as we’ve lost, usually people fold like a cheap tent," Corto said. "We haven’t.”
“I’ve never been more proud of a team, and I’ve won championships and I’ve coached Team USA.”
Like their coach, Suburban’s remaining players remained positive.
Attacker Dominic Corto continued his torrid junior campaign as the architect of the Spartans’ offense. He notched the 300th point of his career Thursday and was still upbeat following the one-goal defeat.
“You can’t just get stuck in the past, if you get stuck in the past you just fall apart,” Corto said. “No one gave up, everyone just kept working hard the whole time.”
Lesser-known players step up: Because of the turmoil, lesser-known players such as goalie Sam Thomas, a defenseman by trade, who according to Frank Corto had never played goalie before, have been thrust into the starting lineup.
Just like the rest of his inexperienced teammates, Thomas stepped up. He made 10 saves, limiting West York to eight goals in the final three frames after allowing six in the first 12 minutes.
“Guys who have never played before have been thrown into (this),” Corto said. “It’s amazing, and it’s guys who at the beginning of the year were never going to play. It’s not just the usual players.”
Following the game, in response to whether he thought his players would still have fight left in them at this point in the year, after everything that has happened, Corto was blunt.
“No,” he remarked with a smile.
Still can make noise in districts: Though the late-season skid wasn’t what Suburban had envisioned for a once-promising campaign, there’s still likely lacrosse left to be played. The District 3 playoffs start next week, and Corto said Suburban may get as many as six players back if it wins its first-round contest. Suburban is No. 8 in the latest power ratings, with 12 teams making the 2-A field.
While the reinforcements may come too late to make a run, Corto will be pleased no matter what happens in the postseason. Not many, including Corto, thought Suburban would even make it this far.
“You make lemonade out of lemons, and we’ve had a lot of lemons right now,” Corto said.
Reach Alex Rychwalski at firstname.lastname@example.org.