BY JOHN THEALL Sports writer
CREATING SPACE — RFA senior attacker Randy Linderman, left, creates some space against Oswego defender Cooper Levine during Friday’s matchup at the Stadium. Ten Rome seniors were honored before the game during the Senior Night festivities before the Black Knights charged on to a 9-3 win. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)
On a night when 10 seniors for the Rome Free Academy boys lacrosse team were honored, it was those veterans who were shining the brightest on Friday night at the Stadium in the last regular season home games of their high school careers.
They refused to be denied on their emotional Senior Night which featured a tribute to the man and his family that started the lacrosse program nearly five decades ago, the late Mike Warwick.
Rome midfielder Dylan Sbarglia recorded a three-goal hat trick, attacker Jacob Gulla added two assists, while defenseman Rich Stapleton and goaltender RJ Ferrucci held one of the top scorers in Section III, Oswego’s Dom Cianfarano, in check during the Black Knights’ 9-3 triumph on Friday.
"Everything was working for us tonight. I told the guys before the game to play this game like it was their last because this was our senior night, and we weren’t going to be denied. Everyone just played their hearts out," said Sbarglia, who in the fall will attend Division I SUNY Stony Brook, where he will continue his lacrosse career.
RFA, which improved to 10-4 overall, jumped out to a 2-0 start on goals by junior midfielders Nicolas Bonanza and Devin Trifeletti.
The Black Knights led 4-1 at the half and extended the margin to a 6-1 score before Bonanza added back-to-back goals in the fourth quarter and Sbarglia added his third goal of the game in the final quarter for good measure.
Ferrucci stopped three of the six shots that he faced all night behind a stingy RFA defense, which only allowed one shot on net in the first quarter and four shots on net in the entire first half.
Cianfarano, who came into the game with 44 goals and 24 assists for 68 points, was held to two goals. Jon Kaplewicz had the other Oswego goalie, and Trent Yule finished with 15 saves in net.
Stapleton and Cianfarano battled one another throughout. "He was a big strong kid," said Stapleton, who will attend Canisius College next season. "He was pushing me around, and I was pushing him around, and in the end it came down to my guys making the plays and getting him away from the cage. We have a lot of chemistry on defense, and RJ is a great goalie for us right now. We’re going to continue to fix our mistakes and hopefully make a run in the playoffs," Stapleton added.
Mistakes on Rome’s end were uncommon on Friday.
Bonanza scored 52 seconds into the game with an assist from junior attacker Mike Mahl, and then Trifeletti scored the second Rome goal 1:14 later with an unassisted tally of his own and quickly the Black Knights were rolling. Sbarglia scored an unassisted goal from inside the 30-yard line to put RFA up, 3-0, before Cianfarano finally put Oswego on the board on the Buccaneers’ second shot on goal of the night three minutes into the second quarter.
It was all Rome from there on out as the blistering defense double-teamed the Buccaneers’ top offensive weapons while finding the open shots of their own on the offensive end.
Seniors were honored before the start of the game were: Stapleton, Sbarglia, Gulla, Ferrucci, Randy Linderman, Mike Pekarski, Connor Richie, Corey Hanson, Drew Hinman, and Lloyd Parkman III. "It was exciting to be honored like that because we have all been together for a long time, and we have all been playing lacrosse since we were little. It was exciting to play together in our last home game here," said Stapleton.
Before the game, Warwick, the former physical education teacher in the Rome City School District and the first lacrosse coach at the school, and his family were honored.
Warwick established the first lacrosse program at RFA in the late 1960’s and coached the team for nearly 30 years until he retired in 1998. He passed away last August at the age of 70.
RFA head coach Guy Calandra has coached the Black Knights for the past 10 years and played under Warwick his senior season in 1990. Calandra was emotional when talking about a man that he considered his mentor.
"Funny thing is when he coached me and I played for him I didn’t think he thought much of me back then, I always thought he was hard on me for no reason, but the more I coach, the more I do the things that he was instilling in me," said Calandra.
"He taught me lifelong lessons, and I’m trying to do that with my kids now, and I didn’t know that until he was gone. He shaped the man that I became today. If he didn’t do what he did and start this program here I wouldn’t be living the life that I have," he added.
The Black Knights said they have dedicated their season to Warwick.