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Lacrosse: South comeback falls short against North Gwinnett, 13-10
South Forsyth senior Chris Vitucci looks for running room Tuesday during the War Eagles' 13-10 loss to North Gwinnett. - photo by David Roberts

Any other team might not have been able to respond. 

South Forsyth boys lacrosse coach Steve Hurlbut doesn't think the War Eagles are simply any other team. 

After playing even with North Gwinnett during the first half of Tuesday's 13-10 loss, South Forsyth endured what could have been a demoralizing third quarter.

North Gwinnett grabbed a one-goal lead in the early stages of the quarter, and South had a unique chance to pull even with the Bulldogs playing two players down, but came up empty after two chances at goal. 

North Gwinnett took 30 seconds to respond, then won the ensuing faceoff and scored another goal to make it 8-5. The Bulldogs struck again at the end of the quarter finding the net on back-to-back possessions -- less than a minute apart.

South senior Andrew Canaway scored with 8.5 left in the quarter to cut North Gwinnett's lead to 10-7.

But the War Eagles were plenty motivated entering the final frame.

Senior Chris Vitucci saved a South turnover around midfield, then sprinted to the net and took the shot himself to make it a 10-8 game.

Two minutes later, after a North Gwinnett player was penalized for playing with an illegal stick, senior Zachary Layne sent a scorcher down low and past the Bulldogs' goalie to make it a one-score game.

Junior Ethan Duerk won a 30-second faceoff to give South a chance to tie the game with 8:40 left, but a shot off Canaway's stick that appeared to roll into goal was called off by the officials. 

North Gwinnett senior Banks Lacey fired home a shot with 6:16 left to push the Bulldogs' lead back out to two goals, and after Vitucci responded with his third goal of the night, North Gwinnett added two more, including a score right before the buzzer.

"We've really come a long way as a program changing the culture," Hurlbut said. "A team five or six years ago, I don't think we would have been able to overcome something like that. We've got kids who believe in themselves and believe in their teammates. We've still got a ways to go, but we're making really good progress. These kids are showing a lot of heart."

Senior Ryan Lightsey scored a pair of first-quarter goals, while Layne also had two. Layne's first goal of the night came with 16.3 left in the first half and allowed South to carry a 5-5 tie into halftime. 

Vitucci's three goals led the War Eagles, and his first score came in the second quarter following a big save by South goalie Ethan Barlag.

South has a pair of talented goalies in Barlag and Hunter Klosterman, who are both juniors. Hurlbut said the two players make each other better in practice.

"We've got some amazing guys on the field who are doing some great things, but I think there's really not enough said about our guys that aren't on the field but are helping us in practice," Hurlbut said. "One of the things I wish more people knew about is, we've got two goalies who are both phenomenal players, but you can only have one play at a time. The goalie that's playing now, he's doing great, but we've got another goalie who busts his butt and plays his heart out in practice, and that makes us better. And there's other guys doing that, and they don't get the credit they deserve — some sophomores and juniors."

South (5-3, 1-0 Area 6, 6-7A) won its area opener March 2 against North Forsyth 15-3 and remains undefeated in area play.

The War Eagles will host Milton on Saturday before stepping back into area play March 16 in an away match at Gainesville.

"We talk about this, and especially after last year, when our season got canceled," Hurlbut said. "If there's anything to learn from stuff like that, nothing is ever promised. You can't take it for granted. You've got to fight for it. God willing, we're still going to have some more games to play. It's so early in the season. It's not where you start, it's where you finish. As long as we keep improving — we're going to come back and get better in practice."