Calvert Hall senior midfielder Stephen Kelly assessed the situation perfectly with just over a minute remaining in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoff quarterfinal against St. Paul's on Friday afternoon in Towson.
After referees invoked the "timer on" shot-clock rule — meaning the team with the ball must attempt to score within 30 seconds — and the Cardinals (11-5, 7-3 league) clinging to a 9-8 lead, Kelly made a move to his right, quickly reversed direction and pumped in his second goal of the game with 1:04 remaining.
Kelly then won the ensuing face-off and Calvert Hall held on for a 10-8 victory and the right to meet top-seeded Boys' Latin on Tuesday at Johnny Unitas Stadium in the semifinal round.
"I had my right (hand) and he was overplaying me a bit," said Kelly, who will attend North Carolina in the fall. "I came back to my left and put it off-side hip."
Kelly, who grabbed the game's final six face-offs, wasn't the only hero of the game for the defending conference champions.
A tip of the cap also goes to a defense playing without senior starter Garrett Epple, who was injured in a 12-5 victory over Loyola on Tuesday and will also miss the Boys' Latin game.
His replacement, senior Jack D'Angelo and fellow longsticks Tyler Mayes, Jack De'Angelo, Erik Evans, Michael Lanahan and Matty Brashears, gave freshman goalie Joe McSorley (7 saves) just enough protection to keep the Crusaders' potent offense in check.
And the offense did its job as well, "finishing the ball better," according to Calvert Hall senior attackman Jordan Germershausen. "We've just been concentrating, and we've been more focused."
St. Paul's (15-5, 5-5) only led once, and that was on an unassisted goal by sophomore attackman Carter Flaig to open the scoring.
A goal by Germershausen, two by sophomore attackman Timmy Kelly and another by senior midfielder Jon Belz gave Calvert Hall a 4-1 advantage before junior attackman Mikey Wynne's extra-man rocket hopped past McSorley to stop the run for the Crusaders.
Calvert Hall junior attackman Andrew Fanshaw and St. Paul's senior midfielder Zach Linkous then traded goals to give the Cardinals a 5-3 halftime lead.
The margin ballooned quickly when Germershausen and Fanshaw scored after consecutive face-off wins by Kelly, for a 7-3 gap early in the third quarter.
However, St. Paul's battled back to within a goal three times, first on a goal by junior attackman Henry Riehl in the third quarter, then on a Wynne goal with 7:04 remaining in the final period and on an inside roll by sophomore midfielder Alex McGovern with 5:18 to go.
After turnovers, tight defense and missed opportunities on both sides, Calvert Hall took possession with 1:38 left and the officials signaled for the shot clock at the 1:13 mark.
Although Stephen Kelly eventually closed the deal, St. Paul's coach Rick Brocato said the Cardinal star's earlier contributions were pivotal.
"We talked to our kids about how he (Stephen Kelly) likes to strike quickly, especially at the beginning of a quarter," Brocato said. "He kind of took over. After that, we kind of felt like we were running uphill."
Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said the St. Paul's competed as hard as his Cardinals.
"If you play hard, and you lose, you're still a winner," he said. "I think the 'Crusies' should be proud of their effort today."
Goal: SP-Flaig 2, Wynne 2, Linkous, McGovern 2, Riehl
CH-Germershausen 2, T. Kelly 2, Belz 2, Fanshaw 2, S. Kelly 2
Assists: SP-Flaig, McGovern CH-Germershausen 3, T. Kelly
Saves: SP-Barretto 7 CH-McSorley 7
Half: CH, 5-3Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun