The Newburgh Free Academy boys’ lacrosse team is going where it’s never gone before.
For the first time in program history, the Goldbacks have punched their tickets to the Section 9 Class A tournament with an 18-1 win over the Middletown Middies on Friday at Academy Field.
“It’s just amazing,” said Elisha McLymore, the Goldbacks’ only senior. “We really needed this win. It was a play-in, and now we’re going to go on the playoffs and do the same thing. I am happy to be a senior; it’s a great team.”
The Goldbacks finished the regular seasons with a 3-10 overall record but won the games they needed to, also scoring a win over the Pine Bush Bushmen to qualify for the playoffs with a 2-2 league record.
“Anytime you’re able to get into a situation where you put yourself in the playoffs, obviously, it’s a positive thing,” Newburgh coach Jim Horton said. “The season is what the season is, and to make the playoffs was an important goal for our team. I’m very proud of them. “They’re doing something that has never been done before in the history of Newburgh lacrosse.”
The Goldbacks jumped out early on the Middies, putting the game out of reach with an 11-1 halftime lead and put most of the second half into a running clock.
The Goldbacks knew the stakes and were pumped for the game.
“We were very pumped up,” McLymore said. “It’s honestly the first time we listened to music before game. So, we had to set the vibe and we went out there and did what we had to do.”
Ryan Gamble did most of the heavy lifting, leading the Goldbacks with five goals. Sam Esposito, Cole Mullarkey, and Jase Giglio each had two goals and one assist. Ryan Wicker and Niko Buchholz each had one goal and two assists. Hiro Muraoka and McLymore each had a goal and an assist. Tyler Nichols and Ajay Johnson had one goal each.
Liam Ehlers had an assist.
“I tried to keep them even keel there for the beginning of the first quarter, and our play kind of showed that we were kind of erratic in what we were trying to do,” Horton said. “But as they kind of settled down, things started to come together.”
The Section 9 playoff brackets will be seeded on Friday, with three Class A teams qualifying.
Friday’s game was only the Goldbacks’ second opportunity to enter sectionals in nearly two decades. They were in a win-and-in situation about 15 years ago but suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss.
The celebration started with the players emptying the water jug onto Horton in celebration.
“It feels great, especially since it’s my senior year,” McLymore said. “It’s my last year I’m going to be able to play high school lacrosse, so it’s just amazing to be able to go to the playoffs.”
The Goldbacks celebrated more than the playoff berth on Friday. They also honored McLymore, who has been on the team since his sophomore year, as the team’s lone senior.
“Elisha has been great,” Horton said. “He’s been a two-year player for us. He’s a hard-working kid, a smart kid, and an intelligent kid. Every time he’s on the field, he hustles. He’s a ‘Yes, sir, no, sir,’ kind of guy. He’s a leader, and he’s going to be sorely missed.”
No matter what happens in the playoffs, there is a lot the young Goldbacks can learn from the postseason. Aside from McLymore, and a few juniors, most of the team is sophomores and younger.
“I want them to learn the whole process,” Horton said. “The whole process of game planning for the playoffs, the whole process of being in a bigger game that it has elimination circumstances. I just want them to get the experience, and, obviously, play hard and enjoy themselves.”