Boys Lacrosse: Sumwalt’s goal with 1.2 seconds left brings Riverhead Senior Day win
Many youngsters have played that imaginary game in their backyard. As the clock winds down, the countdown begins: “Five, four, three, two, one.” And then comes that last-second, game-winning shot.
Griffin Sumwalt was no different. “I did that as a kid, just imagining this moment,” he said.
The only difference is, unlike the vast majority of people, Sumwalt got to experience that thrill in an actual game.
Leave it to a sophomore to save Senior Day for the Riverhead boys lacrosse team. Sumwalt’s lefthanded jump shot with a pair of defenders on him with 1.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter catapulted Riverhead to a dramatic 9-8 triumph over Longwood in a Suffolk County Division I game on a gray, rainy Monday at Pulaski Sports Complex.
“He sealed the deal,” said senior midfielder Danny Squires, who had three of Riverhead’s goals. “He’s always been able to score the ball. Whenever we need him, he’s there. He’s just a great player.”
Sumwalt was mobbed by his teammates following his heroics. It was his second goal of the game.
“It was just a great feeling,” Sumwalt said. “We won in overtime last year verse this team. I knew it was gonna be a close game, and it was just a great way to end the game.”
Riverhead (5-7, 5-5), motivated by a pregame ceremony in which its nine seniors and their parents were recognized, started strong, scoring the game’s first four goals through Squires, Sean Williams, Sean-Michael Payton and Cole Chapman. Zachary Timpone’s goal shortly before halftime gave Riverhead a 7-3 lead.
“We came out on fire,” said Riverhead coach Vic Guadagnino, struggling with a hoarse voice afterward. “We came out with some new stuff that they might not have been familiar with, you know, but they’re a good team and they adjusted. They came back.”
Longwood (7-6, 6-5) never took the lead, but third-period goals by Tyson Taylor (three goals) and Jayson Cardenas (two goals, one assist, five ground balls) followed later by successive fourth-quarter strikes from Cardenas, Najee Henderson (three goals) and Taylor evened the score at 8-8 with 1:31 left to play.
“We were feeling really good, and then they scored a few goals,” Squires said. “And then we just had to keep the morale up and just keep playing our game and keep playing the way we’re supposed to be playing, the way we’re taught, and we came away with a win.”
After Riverhead’s Daniel Healy collected a ground ball, Riverhead called a timeout with 33.3 seconds to go. When play resumed, Sumwalt picked up the ball by the endline and made his way behind the goal. While teammates Ryken Kutner, Chapman, Squires, Timpone and Williams rotated to the correct spots, Sumwalt, moving to his left, found a little space for himself and determined he was going to execute his favorite shot. The shot beat goalie Sean Andreas on the short hop.
“It was amazing,” said Sumwalt.
John Barry made some big stops in the Riverhead goal, finishing with 12 saves.
Nick Miltenberger won 17 of 19 faceoffs for Longwood in addition to assisting on a goal and scooping up 12 ground balls.
Riverhead played its first game since last Thursday, when it lost, 15-7, to Half Hollow Hills. That was Riverhead’s first game in 14 days because of a forfeit by Copiague, affording the Blue Waves plenty of practice time for a mid-season course correction.
“It’s very rare mid-season you get a two-week break, so it really changed things and [let us] work on things that you’ve seen for the first half of the season,” Guadagnino said. “And they listened and they learned.”
At least three of Riverhead’s seniors have college lacrosse in their future in New York State. Kutner is headed to Mercy College, Squires will play for SUNY/Morrisville and Johnathan Timpone will go to Suffolk County Community College.
Riverhead’s senior class also includes Lorenzo LoPiccolo, Logan Swenk, Kevin Wallace, Justin Weber, Barry and Chapman. They are part of a class that saw its sophomore season lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and their junior season compressed to two months.
“They really kept my program alive,” Guadagnino said. “You know, with the [school] budget failure [in 2020-21] and the kids who left, these seniors, they care about Riverhead. They don’t care what the record is, as long as they play with ‘Riverhead’ on their chest. That means something to them, and it means something to all of us.”
Guadagnino said this result is evidence of progress in what hasn’t been an easy season for his team. But, he noted, “They got a win on Senior Day.”