SUFFERN - After becoming the first freshman to start in goal for the Yorktown boys lacrosse team since 1967, Michael Bonitatibus endured a rude awakening at the start of this, his sophomore season.
Bonitatibus lost his starting job early in the season, and Yorktown suffered through an up-and-down campaign, which ended with a 7-9 regular-season record.
But with the 'Huskers on the brink of suffering their first losing season since 1979, Bonitatibus' own comeback story mirrored that of Yorktown.
Bonitatibus, who regained his starting job just before the start of sectionals, enjoyed a spectacular game last night, making 14 saves as the second-seeded Cornhuskers held on for a 9-6 win over top-seeded Lakeland/Panas in the Section 1 Class A boys lacrosse championship game at Suffern Middle School.
Yorktown (10-9), which won its 26th championship in the last 28 years, will play Section 9's Pine Bush in a state intersectional game tomorrow at 6 p.m. at John Jay High School.
"I kept a positive head (after losing my starting job), and cheered on Pat (Werner, who started in his place for much of the season)," Bonitatibus said. "But to have the chance tonight is great. This team has been through a lot but we've all been supportive, and tonight our defense played so well."
Yorktown held on for the win despite scoring just once in the second half.
Lakeland/Panas (19-2) saw its 18-game winning streak end. The streak began after a 9-6 loss to John Jay on April 2.
All-American Andrew Collins of Lakeland/Panas scored the game's first goal just 58 seconds in. And that's how the score remained until Yorktown ended the quarter with a 4-0 spurt, which started with 3:50 to go in the period when John Froats scored off a fast-break feed from Warren Dill.
The 'Huskers took a 4-1 lead on a man-up goal by Nick Newman with 54 seconds left in the quarter, giving the 'Huskers a three-goal advantage heading into the second quarter.
Yorktown went ahead 8-4 at halftime when Froats scored his third goal of the game with six second left before the half.
"It was awesome," said Froats, a junior midfielder who finished with four goals. "Especially because this is my first one (sectional title), and we lost last year (10-9 in overtime to John Jay in the sectional final), so I can't even describe how much this means to us, especially after not having the best season in the world."
Indeed, during the regular season Yorktown suffered losses to Horace Greeley and Hen Hud for the first time in school history, and endured a school-record five-game losing streak.
"It's extremely gratifying," said Yorktown coach Dave Marr, a 1992 Yorktown graduate who played in three state championship games during his varsity career. "It's definitely one of the top Section 1 titles that I've been a part of. The kids went through a lot, they've had a tough season. They're measured against a tremendous tradition and that can weigh a lot on a 14-, 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kid, and they persevered."
Earlier this season, Lakeland/Panas ended a streak of 12 straight Charlie Murphy Cup victories by Yorktown by edging the 'Huskers 10-9. The last time Yorktown and Lakeland/Panas met in the sectional final was 1997, and the Rebels pulled out a 7-4 win that ended Yorktown's run of 18 straight sectional titles.
Staff writer Harold Gutmann contributed to this report.
Reach Joe Lombardi at email@example.com or 914-696-8239. Read the Lax to the Max blog at boyslacrosse.lohudblogs.com.