Colorado native Keenan Moffitt hoisted his gold medal and celebrated with teammates following the boys’ U15 title game of the US Lacrosse West Championships, powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, Sunday. The problem for the Colorado 14ers, though, was that he wasn’t on their team.
Moffitt, a left-handed attackman, scored two goals and added one assist to help top-seeded Brady’s Bunch (Calif.), a conglomerate of youth players in the West, edge the second-seeded 14ers, 6-4, to win the gold medal at scenic Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center. The victory clinched an automatic invitation with free registration for Brady’s Bunch to the US Lacrosse U15 National Championship,powered by Lacrosse Unlimited, July 26-28 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
“I know all those kids because I live in Colorado, so I play with a lot of them,” Moffitt said. “They’re a good team. It means a lot to beat them.”
Moffitt, a rising sophomore at Cherokee Trail (Colo.) High School, scored twice in the first half and fed a cutting Nicholas Demaio for the go-ahead goal with seven minutes left in the second half in what was, by far, the sternest test Brady’s Bunch faced during the three-day tournament. Moffitt played aggressively in the first half, staking the Bunch to leads of 1-0 and 3-2. The latter came on the crease after he withstood a hit by Colorado defenseman Joe Soran with 5:45 to play before halftime. Moffitt also didn’t hesitate to pressure goalie Mike Evans after one of his three first-half saves.
But the 14ers met the challenge, tying the game at 2 after Trevor Orndorff stripped Brady’s attackman Nicholas Lemus and started a transition play that Asher Nolting finished on a feed from Soran. About four minutes into the second half, the 14ers equaled the final at 4 on a goal by Aaron Boyd. Both teams had opportunities, though goalies Braden Host (Colorado) and Easton Gormican (Brady’s Bunch) each made terrific second-half saves.
“I thought we played a pretty good game,” said Alex Smith, coach of the Colorado 14ers. “Probably a few too many turnovers, but overall it was good showing. We weren’t afraid of them. We knew they were going to be good. We have some good kids as well.”
Brady’s Bunch, which yielded just two goals in three pool-play games and five goals in four games overall, called a timeout with 8:05 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Moffitt, from about goal-line extended, found Demaio on the opposite wing, and the 5-4 lead for Brady’s Bunch held. The team got an insurance goal a few minutes later by accident, when Soran inadvertently deflected a pass from Palmeri into his own goal.
“Our long poles were great. We have some good size. I’d take some of these kids at CSU,” said Smith, who coached the team alongside Colorado Buffalo-adorned John Gavin.
For Brady’s Bunch coach Tom Demaio, who coached the San Diego All-Stars team to a win in the 2012 US Lacrosse Central Championships in Texas, the gold medal completed a journey in which getting there meant as much.
“Brady’s Bunch was started a few years back in the name of the founder, Mike Wein, whose son (Brady) was diagnosed with Leukemia at six months old,” Demaio said, after receiving a Gatorade bath on the field. “Since then, we’ve been banding kids together as an all-tournament team in the West, raising awareness about tragedies and life-changing events.”
Palmeri wore jersey number 4 in memory of those who perished in the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon in April.
“We enjoy the win because the kids love it, but Brady’s Bunch happens in the lobby of the hotel when we first meet and talk about life lessons,” Demaio said. “That’s where these kids become part of the family, and you can see that in our style of play. It’s very unselfish. Everyone shares the ball and they know that’s what it takes to win.”
Four other champions knew what it took to win in the event, besting not only the competition, but an unusual heat wave that blanketed Northern California for the weekend.