DS MHSvOHS Lacrosse

Oakdale’s Justin Hartz, front, and Spencer Hill celebrate a goal Thursday night during Oakdale’s 10-8 win over Middletown at Oakdale High School. View and purchase sports photos at www.fnpinfocus.com.

Just like he did in the fall as a left tackle for Oakdale’s football team, Shawn Gibbons is still making big blocks.

But blocking shots, which he does this spring playing goalie for the Bears’ boys lacrosse team, never seems to run the risk of getting overlooked like his valuable work in the football trenches.

“It gets me so hyped when you see Shawn make an incredible save,” Oakdale senior attack Spencer Hill said. “It just really gets us going, and we’re like, ‘OK, it’s our turn to put it the back of the net.’”

With Gibbons piling up 23 saves and Hill finishing with six goals and one assist, the Bears beat visiting Middletown 10-8 on Thursday.

This was Oakdale’s second win since losing 13-6 to Linganore on Friday.

“We had to come off that loss and either show that we work hard and we can rebound or are we going to lay down and die,” Oakdale coach Michael Higgs said. “And tonight, obviously, you saw the boys respond in a very positive way.”

Oakdale players could be heard yelling in the stadium before taking the field for the first time, and Hill said they were just as hyped up in the locker room at halftime.

Taking a slim 5-4 lead into the second half, the Bears (5-1) took command of the game by holding a quality Knights (4-3) team scoreless for the next 18 minutes, extending their lead to 10-4 before the Knights made a comeback attempt during the final six minutes.

Keep in mind, Oakdale’s defense was missing a pair of injured starters in Christian Rozier and Ben Bevilacqua. Still, that unit had veterans Evan Hayek and Ethan Martin.

“We responded well. We have a deep bench. Every one of those kids can play,” said Gibbons, mentioning how defenders like Hayek, Martin and Aaron Coombs helped the Bears hold Middletown standout Luke Hallman to three goals and two assists. “Shutting down Luke was our main goal.”

And when Middletown did manage to get nice shots, Gibbons was often there to stop them. Higgs said the senior has a knack for delivering in big games.

“He’s so well-rounded,” the coach said. “He’s got quick hands, he can get high to low real quick, he can go down low and get back up high. And then he’s a great communicator, a great leader. He’s been a captain for us a couple years.”

By now, many of the skills Gibbons possesses are second-nature.

“You’ve just got to get into a zone,” he said. “If you see shots enough, you start to get used to it, the way sticks move and the way their bodies are angled, you just kind of have a tell for where they’re going to go.”

Gibbons faced plenty of shots on a night when the Knights won the majority of face-offs. Not only did Middletown have face-off ace Roland Hockenbery, but Bears face-off man Teddy White was injured.

But Higgs was happy how Caleb Schwartzman, the team’s starting defensive midfielder, did on face-offs.

“He did a good job. He didn’t quit. He hustled on ground balls,” Higgs said. “[Hockenbery is] one of the best face-off guys in the state. So getting any one against him is always an accomplishment.”

While Oakdale’s defense was shutting down the Knights in the second half, Hill was leading the offense. He scored three goals in the third quarter, helping give the Bears a cushion. He was often aided by nice passes from teammates like Michael Goss, who finished with two goals and two assists.

“I couldn’t do it without other guys stepping up and moving off the ball and giving me feeds,” Hill said. “Goals were off the dodge or off the feed. They got the ball on my stick, and I put it in the back of the net.”

Garrett Witt had one goal and two assists for Oakdale.

Dominic Ceresini had two goals for Middletown, Nic Weldon had two assists and goalie Benjamin Boykin had 17 saves.

“We’ll bounce back. Our guys never quit,” Middletown coach Ty Crompton said.

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