BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jake Froccaro was all smiles as Empire State Games lacrosse chairman Chuck Cohen hung a gold medal around the Port Washington rising junior's neck. It culminated a mad 40 hours of haze, uncertainty and ultimately, redemption for the lacrosse star.
Froccaro was the lynchpin for Long Island throughout the six-game tournament, a FOGO (faceoff, get off) specialist whose skill and tenacity in the faceoff circle determined which team got the ball and went on the offensive. It was Long Island, more often than not. His presence on Sunday helped secure a 7-6 win over the previously undefeated Central region in the gold medal game.
"That was special," Fraccaro said. "We have such great relationships on this team. It was great to win it with them. We're like a family now. I'm going to cherish this."
You would have never guessed Froccaro, the youngest player on Long Island's scholastic boys lacrosse team, suffered a mild concussion on a blindside hit with 4:14 left in regulation in the first meeting with Central on Friday night. An opposing player's stick caught Froccaro under the helmet along the right jaw. And Froccaro got the wind knocked out of him when he fell against his own stick to the turf at Canisius College.
It was a scary moment as coaches and trainers attended to Froccaro. But he walked off the field on his own. Without its FOGO, Long Island lost the game, 8-7, in overtime. But Froccaro's ordeal was just beginning.
"I had a mild concussion," Froccaro said. "I stayed hydrated, went to bed a lot and took a lot of Advil."
While Froccaro was cleared by trainers to play on Saturday against New York City, Long Island coach Jay Mauro sat him out. That didn't stop the Port Washington teenager from wandering the sideline in a T-shirt, tightly gripping a lacrosse stick and offering encouragement.
He was ready to go in the gold medal game the next morning. Central rotated FOGOs, a double-team meant to confound and overwhelm Froccaro. They trotted out a bull of a player in Ithaca's Riley Lasda and technique-savvy Tim Edwards of Jamesville-Dewitt, who helped his team go 22-0 and win the state Class B title in June. Froccaro held his own and Long Island controlled the tempo in the second half.
"I just had to say, 'I'm going to get this one. I'm going to get this one,'" Froccaro said. "And I did."
Winning faceoffs is a skill Froccaro honed and refined by facing his brother. Older brother Jeff Froccaro, an Under Armour All-American in high school in 2009, was a faceoff whiz as a freshman at Princeton. Now Jake Froccaro has an Empire State Games gold medal to match the one his brother won at the 2008 Games, not to mention the respect of the entire Long Island lacrosse community.
"The MVP of the tournament was Jake Froccaro," Garden City senior midfield Tom Gordon said. "Grounds balls win games. And when he was hot, we were getting the ball and scoring. He's the youngest kid on the team, but he doesn't show it."