CAMBRIDGE, N.Y. -- Ahead by a single goal late in Thursday's game against Maple Hill, Cambridge Central School boys lacrosse goaltender Nate Gates had one thought in mind -- keep the ball out of the net.
"You have to be on your toes every single minute," Gates said. "It's very intense."
Gates, a freshman playing just his fifth varsity game, made three saves from close range with only minutes remaining to preserve a 12-10 Indians' win.
Gates, who had 12 saves overall, also got a game ball from Cambridge (4-1) coach Tom Pillsworth for his performance.
"Nate stepped up to play goal and he's done outstanding. He's got good technique and most importantly, he's cool under pressure," Pillsworth said.
The teams went back and forth throughout the contest, as neither led by more than two goals at any point. Leading 9-8 heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats' (0-5) Austin Seymour fired a shot past Gates 43 seconds in to tie the game at 9-9.
After an Indians penalty set them down a man, they scored two short-handed goals in nine seconds -- the first by Jarred Sausville, the second from Chris Warnke, the team's leading scorer -- to retake a 11-9 lead.
Warnke, who came out in the fourth quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him, led the way for Cambridge with five goals and two assists.
"Cambridge's attack is very good, they score a lot of points," said Maple Hill coach Kyle Randall. "They were able to take advantage of our mistakes."
After a timeout to regroup, Maple Hill's leading scorer, Kolby Randall, scored with 6:40 remaining to pull the Wildcats within one. Randall tallied four goals and two assists.
"We had an emphasis on getting more guys scoring," said Randall, whose team is only in its second year of existence.
But that's when Gates came up big, making saves on three different shots. He then turned defense into offense, clearing the ball to defenseman Ryan Jeskie, who sped past the first wave of defenders and weaved his way to the net, firing a shot past Wildcats goalie Cole Cioffi.
"It's just awesome that my defense could get down and score," Gates said.
The goal was Jeskie's first varsity goal.
"Ryan's never played before this year," Pillsworth said. "He's fast, has good vision. I told him if he had an opportunity to shoot to take it and he did."
Maple Hill took an early 3-1 lead, with Randall scoring twice, but Cambridge scored six of the next eight goals, including three from Warnke and two from Bryant Gibbons, to take a 7-5 halftime lead.
"They have the green light to drive the cage," Pillsworth said. "They took hard, accurate shots and they were getting pounded, but they never quit, either one."
The Wildcats tied the game at 7-7 as Randall and Seymour scored in the first three minutes of the second half, but Sausville scored to give Cambridge the lead again and Warnke tallied on a power play with 1:44 remaining to make it 9-7.
At 4-1, Cambridge is well on its way to another sectional appearance, but Pillsworth said Tuesday's game against undefeated Lansingburgh will speak volumes.
"That will be a benchmark game for us," Pillsworth said.