Nephews or not, favoritism was hardly the reason Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly featured his brothers' sons on the roster this season.
That's because every team in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference would be happy to welcome the league's best attackman, senior Patrick Kelly, and his junior cousin, premier faceoff midfielder Stephen Kelly, into their fold.
The 2012 Towson Times Co-Players of the Year from Lutherville were that good in leading the Cardinals (16-2) to the program's first conference championship since 2003.
"They were a pretty lethal tandem, controlling the middle of the field and being an offensive point machine," Gilman coach Brooks Matthews said.
They were all that, helping Calvert Hall to earn the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs after posting an 8-1 mark in conference play, including an 11-8 triumph over Matthews' Greyhounds.
The season wasn't all roses, however, as a stunning 11-10 loss to Conestoga (Pa.) attests in a game in which the Cardinals led, 10-5, in the third quarter and knocked them out of contention for a mythical national championship.
"I think that was the best thing for us," said Patrick, who, like his cousin, is headed to the University of North Carolina. "It helped us to stay focused on the process and let the outcome (of the remaining games) take care of itself."
Moreover, in the beginning of the year the team was working on a completely new offense, a tricky concept that was difficult to grasp at times.
"When you don't get results right away, it can be tough to buy in," said Stephen, the youngest member of the U.S. Under-19 team that will defend its world championship next month in Finland.
By the end of the year, though, they had bought in to the point that, coupled with a relentless defense and top-flight goalie, the Cardinals finished the campaign with nine consecutive wins.
Still, they trailed Boys' Latin, 6-4, at halftime of a conference semifinal and were in danger of failing to secure a title for a second year in a row as the top seed.
"But we stayed calm," Stephen said. "We knew what we could do. We knew if I did my job at the (faceoff) X, we were unstoppable."
With Stephen's faceoff numbers (75.6 for the season, 65 percent success rate in the game) in mind, Calvert Hall players must have felt they would get enough possessions to pull out the win, which they eventually did, 11-10. He also added a goal and an assist to the cause and completed the year with 21 goals and 18 assists.
Patrick contributed mightily in the comeback as well, matching four goals with as many assists in the victory, part of a banner season in which he totaled a whopping 44 goals and 39 assists, despite playing sparingly down the stretch in some lopsided wins.
"We needed a close game like that in the semifinal," Patrick said. "It brought us back in line."
In the final against archrival Loyola Blakefield, after a relatively close first half the Cardinals unloaded on the Dons to win going away, 17-3.
Patrick capped his career with two goals and three feed while Stephen finished by capturing 11 of 17 draws.
"I have so much respect for (Stephen)," Gilman senior midfielder Jake Matthai said. "He has the ability to have a massive effect on the whole game, and he's as strong in the fourth quarter as he is in the first quarter.
"And Patrick is the Steele Stanwick of the MIAA," Matthai added, comparing Patrick favorably to the University of Virginia's all-time points leader. "Even when he's having trouble scoring, he always finds a way to impact the game."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun