Hart's William Knight runs downfield in a matchup with Saugus at Hart on Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Hart boys lacrosse overcomes slow start to beat Saugus

Saugus is the new kid when it comes to boys lacrosse in the Santa Clarita Valley. Hart, however, they’ve been around for a minute.

The Centurions entered Thursday’s game at Hart with something to prove, but it was the two teams combined that showed that Foothill League lacrosse is growing. And it’s competitive, too.

The Indians shut down a strong first-half attack from Saugus for a 9-4 win to extend their win streak to four games.

“I think it’s really important to us as a team, especially being the home field, we want to protect our turf,” said defenseman Andrew Lucero. “And also, it is our first league, it’s our first being in a league game, it’s really great to know we can compete out here and it just felt good to get that win.”

In a fairly quiet first quarter, Hart (5-2 overall, 1-0 in Foothill League) broke the silence with a goal from Jason Nunez with three minutes left to go in the frame. Charlie Bland scored for Saugus (2-3, 0-1) shortly after to even the score.

Bland scored again to open the second quarter at 10:40 and the Cents were able to hold off the Indians for the following six minutes with a zone defense and a swift offense despite being outsized in most one-on-one matchups.

“We knew we were the underdogs from the very beginning and Hart has a great team, they’ve been playing really well in the games they played before us,” said Saugus coach David Steinman.

“So really it was just about us making a statement about who we were as a team. Are we going to be competitive in league? Are we going to be taken seriously? And I feel like we came out and that’ exactly what we did.”

The Indians’ Jacob Montez netted his first goal of the game with 4:28 left in the quarter with an assist from Nunez. Jared Steinman struck back with a goal of his own a minute later, but one minute after that, Montez ripped a shot in front of the net for his second goal to tie the game at 3-3.

Hart’s Jacob Montes passes the ball in a matchup with Saugus at Larry Fiskus Field in Newhall Thursday afternoon. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Hart made some adjustments at halftime, then came out and executed.

Montez scored another goal from point-blank range at 10:33, then Cheyne Burroughs potted one 20 seconds later. Kyle Wiggins and Caleb Reed scored after, giving the Indians a 7-3 advantage.

“What we said was a secret, but we changed a little bit of what we were doing on the offensive side,” Hart coach Tony Uebelhardt said of the halftime adjustments. “Saugus came out with a different defense than what we were expecting, so we had to change it up a little bit and our kids learn stuff on the fly pretty well, so we drew up a couple things and we were able to get a couple goals in the third quarter to pull ahead.”

Bland was able to get a promising shot on goal with five minutes left in the game, but it was deflected by the stick of Lucero and the goal attempt was thwarted.

Goalie Edgar Aguilar stopped two goal attempts in a matter of a minute with 10 minutes to go in the third quarter as Hart buckled down even more on defense.

“Eddie’s a stud, he’s been working hard,” Montes said. “He’s very hard on himself and we just need to get him to relax sometimes, but he works really hard and he did the job today.”

Bland broke through with a goal to cut the deficit to 7-4, then Nunez scored on a wide-open net with five minutes left in the game.

With 4:48 to go, Hart’s Luke Rodriguez was called for unnecessary roughness and held out of the game for three minutes after a brief scrum, but the Indians maintained focus and finished out the game strong.

Montez had the final goal of the game, his fourth of the day, with 3:30 left.

“I was just trying to do whatever we needed to do to get the win,” Montez said. “Today happened to be my game, a couple weeks earlier it was one of my friend’s games. You just have a game sometimes.”

Saugus next plays at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks on Saturday at noon, while Hart will host Birmingham on Monday at 4:30 p.m. as it continues its quest for the first playoff appearance in program history.

“That’s the only goal this season so far,” Montez said. “Win league, yes, but we want to get to playoffs. We haven’t been to playoffs since the organization began and that’s our big goal.”

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