By Tris Wykes

LEBANON – Hot and humid weather couldn’t dampen the Lebanon High boys lacrosse team’s spirits Saturday. The Raiders’ 12-6 victory over visiting Monadnock allows them to play in Wednesday’s semifinals of the NHIAA Division III playoffs at Plymouth.

Hunter Grant and Griffin Auch each posted hat tricks and C.J. Childs scored twice for the Raiders, who also received goals from Noah Mekus, Ethan Price, Alisdair MacPhail and Cesar Salcedo.

Lebanon last reached the state semifinals in 2002, when it fell in the Division II final to Bow. The Raiders lost twice to Plymouth (11-4) this season by a combined 20-10.

Lebanon High’s Griffin Auch, left, turns away from Monadnock’s Will Lepisto. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

“I’ve known since eighth grade that we could have a good high school lacrosse team,” said Childs, one of eight juniors on the Raiders’ roster. “This year we’ve come out and proved it, making it over .500 now.”

The victory was somewhat costly for Lebanon (7-6). Longstick midfielder Jake Kriplin didn’t return after taking a violent check to the head and Simon Amaro departed early to receive facial stitches. Several other Raiders had to take breaks after absorbing painful slashes and ice bags were plentiful after the final horn.

Lebanon High defenseman Daniel Keefe (8) carries the ball out of a crowd. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Lebanon has benefitted from the NHIAA’s decision to seed playoff teams randomly. The Raiders finished seventh in the division’s regular-season standings, with three of their six victories over winless Stevens. 

Thanks to the draw being picked out of a hat, however, Lebanon received one of four top regional seeds and got to host the winner of a play-in game between Monadnock (2-4) and Kearsarge (3-5). That turned out to be the Huskies, who had only three substitutes for Saturday’s contest and were worn down by halftime, when they trailed, 6-4.

To the Raiders’ credit, they were in position to capitalize on Monadnock’s unfortunate situation. Lebanon is well conditioned and vastly improved in fundamental skills after a spring under former Navy officer and first-year coach Cole Flannery. His team has won six consecutive games after losing six of its first seven contests.

“He’s a great coach and he’s definitely change the program around,” Childs said. “Every day before practice, we work on fundamentals and endurance, because we don’t have huge numbers. That shows up during games in humid weather like this.”

Lebanon High’s Noah Mekus, left, sprints ahead of Monadnock’s Justin Joslyn. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.

Those early opponents included Division II members Hanover and Keene, giving the Raiders a lesson in defensive cohesion and offensive ball movement. 

“It was a good learning experience, even though we got blown out,” said Childs, who also played on strong football and basketball teams during the current school year and who took a gridiron recruiting trip to Castleton University this week. “We grew as a team.”

Notes: The game’s start was delayed 40 minutes because of a thunderstorm… The Lebanon boys tennis team, fresh off its Division II state title earlier in the day, brought its championship plaque to the lacrosse game during the second half… Childs’ mother, Marilou, is a Castleton graduate… Monadnock defenseman Dylan Lachman took a shot to the groin early in the game and was down for five minutes before hobbling off and applying an ice pack to the injured area. Remarkably, he later returned to action… Huskies goaltender Carson Lloyd drew a penalty for slashing Childs late in the contest. The backstop had to strip off his equipment and give it to a teammate, who replaced him for the final minute or so.

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Lebanon High coach Cole Flannery has the Raiders in the NHIAA Division III semifinals. Copyright Octopus Athletics. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to ctwykes@aol.com.