— Two years ago, Southern was brimming with confidence after a victory over defending state champion Fallston on its way to the state final, where it was leading in the second quarter.
The Bulldogs found themselves in the same position on Wednesday, only this time they finished the job.
Ben DeBlauw scored eight goals and assisted on another and helped Southern tie the record for most goals in a state final in Wednesday's 20-7 victory over South Carroll in the Class 2A/1A state final at Stevenson University.
DeBlauw, playing his first year at Southern after transferring from Old Mill, finished one goal shy of tying the state record for goals and points in a game.
"The games where I get my points is when the team plays incredibly as a whole," DeBlauw said. "I get assisted on a lot of my goals. When it looks like I put up a huge game, it's because of the team, not just me."
James O'Brien followed with three goals and an assist, Colin Phipps had two goals and three assists, Brandon Thomas and Logan Clingerman each had two goals and two assists and Elias Hutchinson added a pair of goals for the Bulldogs, who had seven goal-scorers and recorded assists on 11 of their 20 goals.
Ryland Collinson added a goal and DeAndre Walls had an assist to round out the Bulldogs record-tying output.
"I'm speechless," Southern coach Brendan Brace said. "I've been here twice before on the other side. Words can't describe it. My whole coaching staff is Southern grads, so it means a lot to them."
Southern was in the state final for the second time in three years. In the 2015 state final against Easton, the Bulldogs had a three-goal lead in the second quarter and seemed to have been feeding off the momentum of the run through the region and the state semifinals. After taking that three-goal lead, Southern scored just one goal the rest of the way and left the field still in search of its first state title.
"We're lucky enough to have a couple guys who were on that team, so they knew what it was like to be here," Brace said. "They knew that just because you have a lead it can melt away. For a lot of the seniors, this is the last time some of them will play organized lacrosse, so they wanted to finish."
One of those seniors who was on the 2015 team is Brandon Thomas, who scored the Bulldogs' second goal off a nice feed from Clingerman. He scored his second goal late in the third quarter on an assist from DeBlauw to put the Bulldogs back up by eight after South Carroll had scored a pair of goals and was starting to show some signs of life.
"I've said it since my freshman year that I was going to get a championship ring," Thomas said. "I lost it my sophomore year, but I told myself I was going to step up and be the best I can be. We just played Coach Brace's way, and it works."
Southern never trailed and the game was tied just once late in the first quarter. DeBlauw scored with 10 seconds left in the first that started a run where he scored five of Southern's next six goals. The Bulldogs led 9-4 at the half, then DeBlauw opened the second half with two goals in the first 38 seconds to push the lead to 11-4.
"I knew that he was a strong player and we were going to have to play great defense on him," South Carroll coach Brad Widner said. "To be perfectly honest, they did exactly what we thought they were going to do. We knew where they were going to initiate from and we knew what their offense was. They were just better than us today."
Gavin Taquino finished with five saves, including a stop on Jake Snell 40 seconds in while the game was still scoreless, and Southern also dominated on the ground balls, 43-22. Nic Pomerleau won 17 of 31 faceoffs to not only help the Bulldogs with possession, but kept the ball out of the sticks of South Carroll's prolific scorers.
South Carroll's seven goals was its lowest since it started the season with back-to-back losses to Linganore and Westminster.
"These guys really took it to themselves to really be students of the game," Brace said. "When we talk about what other teams are doing and what we need to fix, they know exactly what we're talking about.''
GOALS: SO - DeBlauw 8, O'Brien 3, Phipps 2, Thomas 2, Clingerman 2, Hutchinson 2, Collinson; SC - Worsley 3, MacKenzie, Crossman, Klein, Snell. ASSISTS: SO - Phipps 3, Clingerman 2, Thomas 2, DeBlauw, Fleming, O'Brien, Walls; SC - MacKenzie 3, Crossman, Klein. SAVES: SO - Taquino 5; SC - Hock 10. SHOTS: SO - 45; SC - 21. FACEOFFS: SO - 17; SC - 14; GROUND BALLS: SO - 43; SC - 22.