AUBURN — A competitive game through three quarters, Auburn boys lacrosse couldn't overcome a handful of self-inflicted wounds.
Facing 2019's Class C state runner-up Jamesville-DeWitt, the Maroons committed a few too many gaffes that propelled the Red Rams to a 16-6 win Tuesday at Holland Stadium.
Auburn was in lock step with J-D for a moment in the second quarter when the score was even at 3-3, and the deficit was a manageable three goals at halftime.
J-D held the Maroons to a single goal in the second half, however, while scoring eight of its own.
"I loved our effort throughout the game. These guys came out to play and we grinded for four quarters," Auburn coach Matt Smith said. "What I didn't like was the unforced errors. We've gotta fix that, both on offense and defense. We're a young group and we're immature lacrosse-wise.
"There was some growth, but we've gotta clean up those unforced errors.
Auburn, trailing early, caught a break in the opening quarter when Jamesville-DeWitt goalie Jamison MacLachlan was called for a slash. The rules do not allow another player to serve a goalie's penalty, which forced MacLachlan to briefly exit the game while the Maroons went on the man advantage.
Christian Hogan quickly took advantage, scoring his first from about 20 yards out. Hogan added another first quarter goal, and Colin Tardif followed with a tally moments into the second quarter to even the score 3-3.
Auburn couldn't sustain that momentum, however, as J-D scored the next two goals to force Smith into taking a timeout. Zach Crosby and Trey Masters each netted goals prior to halftime to keep the Maroons within striking distance, down 8-5.
It began to unravel for Auburn in the third quarter. The Maroons were hemmed in their own side of the field for the first 2:40 of the third quarter, unable to gain possession and escape. A couple crucial saves from Jackson Siddall kept the Red Rams, temporarily, off the board. Finally able to clear, the ball found its way to Ty Hlywa who scored Auburn's six goal of the night.
That was the final time the Maroons solved J-D's defense. The Red Rams scored the game's next eight goals to snuff out Auburn's comeback attempt.
Far too often for Smith's liking, the offense in an effort to regroup in a possession would put the ball on the ground. More often than not, J-D would scoop it up and transition the other way.
Smith hopes the game of hot potato will end with more practice time.
"You show the kids on film and rep it in practice, and you just turn the page," Smith said. "We have no time to lick our wounds with three-game weeks. Our younger guys are going to continue to get better, and we're going to look forward to our next practice and winning that practice."
Studying their own film will be a crucial component to success this season. In past seasons, Auburn's coaching staff would gather film of upcoming opponents and break down with the team a potential game plan.
Teams in New York state have not played in nearly two years though, as the spring 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19. The absence of an entire season has left a lot of unknown, including with Smith's own team.
Part of the challenge too, as Smith put it, was pulling kids out of "the COVID coma."
"We have kids that have never played JV. It's their first game since modified," Smith said. "It's getting kids acclimated to the speed of the game. These kids have worked hard. We've been going since last May and we've kept these kids busy. If we didn't do that, believe it or not, things would be even worse."
Correcting mistakes and getting his players back into lacrosse shape beats the alternative: Not playing at all. Smith has also noticed an uptick in positive attitudes, especially compared to the mindset of student-athletes a year ago.
"It's growing and getting better and better," he said. "We just need to keep pushing. If we keep giving kids opportunities, I think they're gonna take it."
Auburn (1-1) travels to East Syracuse Minoa on Thursday.
Sports reporter Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.