Ryan Mills played only one half against Mt. Hebron on Tuesday afternoon, but he made every minute of it count. Mills, the county’s leader in assists, jump-started Howard’s offense with four goals and an assist before suffering an injury two seconds before halftime.
“I did what I could to help us get off to a good start,” Mills said. “It was tough that it had to end quickly, but I’m glad that I could give my team the lead that we needed to finish out the game.”
The Lions would need that early advance as it built a four-goal lead in the fourth quarter before needing to hold off a late rally by the visiting Vikings in a 10-8 victory.
“I’ve coached Ryan now for three years and I’ve always known that he has the ability to go to goal,” Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. “He has great vision and he is very unselfish. We’re fine with that but today he decided to be the aggressor.
“He played really well and we hope that he’s alright.”
Mills was injured on a play that started on the Lions’ defensive end. With about 15 seconds left in the half, goalie Ben Judy stopped a shot off of his chest before scooping up the rebound and launching the ball downfield.
Mills caught it in the air, raced to the cage and fired a shot in with two seconds on the clock. After shooting the ball, he took a big hit.
“I didn’t see much of the save but I remember seeing the ball come up field and their defender missed it. I bobbled it, got it back and was able to put it in the net. … I got hit after I released it. As I watched the ball go in, I got hit. After that was just pain.”
Mill didn't return to the game but watched the remainder of the contest on the sidelines.
The loss knocked Mt. Hebron (6-2, 9-2) out of a three-way tie with Howard and Centennial for second place in the county with one loss. The Lions (6-1, 9-1) will face league leader Glenelg – which has a perfect 7-0 mark – on Thursday.
“We knew this week was going to be tough with two big games against Mt. Hebron and Glenelg,” said Judy, who finished with 14 saves. “Today, the offense kept putting them in and the defense held it for the win.”
Howard broke open a 2-2 game in the second quarter with four unanswered scores. John Travisano dodged in front of the goal and fired in a shot to start the run. Mills added back-to-back scores before finding Nick Striebich on a backside cut to make it 6-2.
Jake Stevens, who finished with four goals for the Vikings, stopped the spurt with a left-handed runner and Adam Huber (two goals, one assist) followed 15 seconds later with a quick strike to cut the deficit to two.
Mills’ goal assisted by Judy stretched the lead back out and Mt. Hebron never got closer than two points the rest of the way.
“I just threw it down there, trying to help the offense make a play,” Judy said. “Ryan caught it and finished. It was a little bit of luck.”
The Vikings closed the third quarter with goals by Stevens and Shane Brookhart to make it 8-6, but the Lions opened the fourth with goals by Scott Bruner (two goals) and Cody Ford to again stifle the comeback.
“We went in knowing that Hebron has some good players and some offensive firepower, so we’ve harped on that the last couple days of practice,” Creighton said. “Our guys came out and executed the game plan.
“We did a great job possessing the ball on offense — being patient, getting great shots and not taking the first one they gave us. ... Our defense held their own today.”
Howard 10, Mt. Hebron 8
MH 2 2 2 2 -- 8