MOSCOW — Abington Heights head coach Bill Riiff couldn’t have scripted a much better start.
The Comets scored the first two goals of the game, but North Pocono answered by registering the next eight and the Trojans held on to defeat Abington Heights, 15-7, in a boys lacrosse game April 24.
Abington Heights was credited with the first 11 shots of the contest and took a 1-0 lead when junior attacker Hunter Riiff scored off an assist from senior attacker Eric Middleton with 5:56 left in the first period.
The Comets used a two-man advantage to go ahead 2-0 when junior midfielder Noah Johnson scored off an assist from sophomore midfielder Dante DeRiggi with 1:26 remaining in the period.
Abington Heights controlled the ball and outshot North Pocono, 14-4, in the first 10 1/2 minutes of the game.
“We’ve been working real hard on trying to maintain possession of the ball,” Riiff said. “We’ve been shooting a ton on goalies all season long…just not necessarily putting it in the back of the net. I’ve asked our guys to really understand what it means to have possession in the game. We have a lot of kids on this team and I’m proud that we’re moving the ball so well.
“That first 1o minutes of lacrosse was really enjoyable to watch.”
North Pocono struck with less than 30 seconds left in the first period when attacker Jason Parola scored off an assist from midfielder Elias Gray.
The Trojans carried the momentum over into the second period, outscoring the Comets, 7-0.
Gray scored off an assist from attacker Kris Zero less than 30 seconds into the period to tie the score, 2-2.
Zero scored three goals, Parola had two and midfielder Tyler Motichka scored one in the second quarter for the Trojans.
Abington Heights responded by notching the first two goals of the second half.
Middleton scored off an assist from DeRiggi three minutes into the third quarter and Johnson scored off a pass from DeRiggi with 5:42 remaining in the third.
Riiff praised the poise and overall knowledge of the game displayed by DeRiggi.
“His IQ is probably the best on the team,” Riiff said. “His ability to move without the ball and put it on goal is outstanding.”
North Pocono (5-2) scored three straight on goals from Gray, Marcus King and Parola to lead 11-4 with 1:10 left in the third.
Middleton scored his second goal, off a pass from DeRiggi, on a hard shot on net, but Gray and Motichka each added a goal in the final 42 seconds of the quarter to put the Trojans ahead 13-5.
“He’s a captain and understands the game well,” Riiff said of Middleton. “We’re trying to integrate some younger guys with him and we’re trying to get him in the right spots to be effective.”
Johnson scored his second goal, off an assist from Middleton, to pull the Comets within seven with 7:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“He’s a really good player,” Riiff said of Johnson. “He’s an emotional spark plug for us across the board.”
Midfielder Dale Morris scored an unassisted goal for North Pocono with 4:10 left in the fourth before DeRiggi scored a nifty wraparound goal for the final tally of the game for Abington Heights (3-4). Parola added a late goal for the Trojans.
Despite the loss, Riiff is pleased with the direction the program is headed in its second year after going 0-7 last season.
“We’re battling hard and I only see upside for us,” he said. “We have eight freshmen and we’re going to continue to grow. We’re playing against teams that have been around a lot longer and North Pocono has a good bunch of kids.
“I just didn’t want my boys to quit and they never let their coach down.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.