Before they were on opposite sides of the always intense Calvert-Hall-Loyola Blakefield rivalry, midfielder Stephen Kelly and attackman Devin McNamara were teammates on several Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association state championship teams while playing for the Lutherville-Timonium Rec Council.
Moreover, the co-Towson Times Players of the Year — Kelly also shared the honor with his cousin and former Cardinal teammate Patrick Kelly in 2012 — claimed Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference titles with their respective teams during outstanding prep careers.
Kelly's crown came last spring in a rout of McNamara and the Dons, who came out of nowhere this season as the bottom seed to stun third-seeded Gilman, second-seeded McDonogh and previously unbeaten Boys' Latin in a difficult-to-believe playoff run.
Although few observers believed Loyola had a prayer in the playoffs, if the Dons were going to make a belated move, to know one's surprise McNamara led the charge.
In three playoff games, the Villanova University-bound senior totaled eight goals and 13 assists. He finished the year with a whopping 43 goals and 49 feeds for Loyola (13-8).
Moreover, McNamara's second goal in the championship game against BL snapped a 9-9 deadlock with 1:56 remaining inn a 10-9 triumph.
He said his role after the Lakers called a time out was to "find a pocket in their zone rotation. I was just open for a split-second before Tim (Nordbrook) got me the ball."
After briefly moving his stick close to his left shoulder to avoid a check by Boys' Latin defenseman Mac Pons, McNamara deposited the game winner from the doorstep past Laker goalie Christian Knight.
Kelly said that what he admires the most about McNamara is his demeanor.
"He never talks trash on the field," Kelly said. "Our defensemen told me that, too. He doesn't talk to them. He just goes about his business. It takes a lot of composure to do that."
Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly, Stephen's uncle, said that McNamara's off-ball ability made his very dangerous.
"He's very crafty," Kelly said. "You had to know where he was, or he'd make you pay. He has a quick burst, and can blow by you."
Still, to say Loyola struggled during the regular season is an understatement. The Dons went 3-6 in conference play and only hit their stride in the postseason after a reprieve when Mount St. Joseph upset St. Mary's on the final day of the regular season.
"We just weren't playing very smart," McNamara said. "We were taking bad shots and making bad decisions. In the playoffs, we started playing for each other."
Kelly's Cardinals, though, locked up a playoff spot early and won their first playoff game against St. Paul's before squandering a 9-4 halftime advantage in a 12-10 semifinal loss to Boys' Latin.
That said, the University of North Carolina recruit did everything in his power to ensure the Cardinals (11-6) would secure a third consecutive championship berth by controlling 23 of 26 faceoffs and scoring a goal against the Lakers. For the season, Kelly's offensive contributions included 24 goals, 21 assists and a stellar 77 percent success rate at the faceoff 'X'.
In addition, Kelly is a fine defender as an old-school, two-way middie on the first line with cousin Johnny Kelly and John Belz.
"He's been a legitimate triple threat over his entire career," Loyola coach Jack Crawford said about Stephen's versatility. "He's an outstanding faceoff man, offensive threat and defensive midfielder. Very few teams have been able to minimize the damage he can do to an opponent."
Kelly, who was a member of the world championship U.S. Under-19 team last summer, impressed his uncle as well.
"It's mind-boggling to see all the things he can do," Bryan Kelly said. "I don't think you'll see an all-around player as good as Stephen again. He did everything for us."