Log In

Reset Password

Mars boys lax makes history with state crown

West is Best
The Mars boys lacrosse team celebrates its win over Marple Newtown in the state final last June in West Chester. The Planets became the first team from Western Pennsylvania in the 13-year history of the state tournament to claim the crown. The feat was voted the Butler Eagle’s top sports story of 2022. Submitted Photo

The season Mars' boys lacrosse team had worked and strived for seemed on the verge of coming up two wins short.

In a Class 2A state semifinal against Penncrest June 7 in Chambersburg, the Planets saw a 7-2 lead evaporate into a 7-all tie late in the first half.

“During a timeout, some of the coaches were concerned,” said Mars head coach Bob Marcoux. “It was seniors Austin Cote and Quinn Fuller who had a calming influence. They said, ‘Everything's fine. We got this.’”

Fuller said the 5-0 run should never have happened.

“It was a fluke, but also a wake-up call,“ he said Wednesday while reflecting on the season. “We got ahead of ourselves, but we knew that all-around we were the better team. We just had to get back to basics.”

Getting back to basics for the Planets led to their 9-1 run to end the contest, a 16-8 victory that sent Mars to the state championship game where, four days later, it defeated Marple Newtown 9-6 to cap an extraordinary and historic 23-1 season as Mars became the first team from Western Pennsylvania to win a state championship in lacrosse.

The effort has been voted the Butler Eagle's top county sports story of the year.

The seed for success was planted in June 2021 when the Planets reached the state final, only to lose to Allentown Central Catholic.

“We knew we'd get back for another shot, 100 percent,” Fuller said. “We weren't coming home without the title and that win was for us, the Mars community, Pittsburgh and all of Western Pa.”

The Planets won their first 16 games last spring by a combined score of 291-53. Less than a week before the start of the WPIAL playoffs, they faced Upper Arlington, an Ohio powerhouse from the Columbus area. Mars suffered a 13-8 defeat to the eventual Ohio state champion.

“You never want to lose, but that came at the right time,” said Jack Dunham, a junior attackman last spring. “We needed to be humbled and it gave us a chance to hit the reset button.”

The game benefitted Mars in another way.

“That was the game when we knew (goalie) Jonathan Grieco was ready for the playoffs. Despite the loss, he played really well,” Marcoux said. “He had been injured the first half of the season and Luke Spreng did a great job in his place. Jonathan was very supportive of Luke and he knew he would have to earn the job once he was healthy. He respected the process.”

Marcoux also lauded midfielders Jacob Caringola and Kyle McEwen, who found an effective balance between offensive and defensive contributions.

The Planets were the top-ranked team entering the district tournament. After a first-round bye, they scored 66 goals and allowed just seven in victories against Shaler, South Fayette and Quaker Valley. The run earned for Mars a sixth straight WPIAL crown, but their effort the year before had ended in disappointment.

“Our motto last season was: ‘Finish the job,’” said Dunham. “The loss in the state final the year before was a huge motivator for us.”

The Planets dispatched Cocalico and Susquehannock before the semifinal meeting with Penncrest. Their opponent in the final, Marple Newtown, hails from District 1 (suburban Philadelphia), which had produced 11 of the previous 16 state champions.

But the Tigers allowed three goals to Cote, two to Dunham and were frustrated by Grieco's 11 saves, including nine in the second half, earning him MVP honors.

“It's tough to explain how I felt as that game ended,” Dunham said. “Pure joy, is all I can say.”

Spirited practices during the season kept the Planets sharp and focused on reaching their goal. An offense featuring Enzo Grieco (81 goals), Wesley Scurci (80 goals, 44 assists), Cote (78 goals, 30 assists) and Dunham (45 goals, 33 assists) among others was pitted against a rock-solid defense captained by Tucker Kush and Fuller. The result was both units became even better as the season progressed.

“We were as competitive as can be in those practices,” said Fuller. “We'd all been playing together since we were little kids and love getting after it.

“It was high intensity and high energy.”

Sign up to Receive Daily News Updates

* indicates required