In the final week of the regular season, Glenelg boys lacrosse traveled to Marriotts Ridge, where the team struggled to put goals on the board for much of the first half.
Just eight days later, in the second round of the Section I 3A/2A South regional playoffs, the Gladiators got another shot at the Mustangs on their turf.
Just as it did in the first meeting, Glenelg started slow, opting for a second-half surge that quelled any chance of an upset.
“They tried to take the air out of the ball,” said Gladiators coach Josh Hatmaker, whose team went on to defeat Marriotts Ridge, 7-3, Friday at Western Regional Park. “Obviously that was one of their strategies.”
One thing that differed from the last time the two teams met was the mood surrounding the game itself.
The Gladiators (9-2 county, 11-4) were celebrating their second annual “Cheese On” Day. Fans in the stands dressed in purple in memory of 2008 Glenelg High School graduate Matthew Cheswick, who was killed by a drunk driver in May 2012.
Luke Cheswick, Matthew’s younger brother, is in his final season as a member of the Gladiators squad. After scoring five goals in last year’s ‘Purple Game,’ the senior backed it up with a pair of scores and an assist against the Mustangs in this year's memorial contest.
“It’s really cool just to honor my brother. He would have been here if he could have been. He was a big supporter of mine,” Cheswick said.
The senior’s goals came within one minute of one another, separated only by the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth. Up until that point, the Gladiators had difficulty getting shots past Marriotts Ridge goalie Chris McTague (11 saves).
Throughout the game, Hatmaker preached patience to his team. The first two quarters featured the Mustangs’ notorious defense, which held Glenelg from going on a run, or establishing a string of consistent possessions.
“I thought we were pushing too much, like our guys got antsy, because we didn’t have the ball,” Hatmaker said. “Then suddenly, we were taking bad shots. You can’t do that against that defense. (Mustangs coach) Tony (Incontrera) does an awesome job with them.”
Marriotts Ridge’s Jack Grote and Patrick Clipp each notched first-half goals, matching every offensive move the Gladiators made.
Tied 2-2 at the half, the Gladiators nearly went the entire third without lighting up the scoreboard. With 34 seconds left before the end of the period, Tommy Chaisson notched his second goal of the game, giving Glenelg a lead it would fail to relinquish.
“We knew coming in that they would try to slow the ball down, pass it around before they try and go to goal,” Cheswick said. “So we had to be aware that every possession counts.”
Following Cheswick’s two tallies, Caleb Marshall scored for the second time of the afternoon, and Kevin Wynne added one more goal to close out the victory.
Marriotts Ridge, which defeated Mt. Hebron in the first round of the sectional playoffs, ends its season with a 7-4 county, 9-7 overall record.
“I’m proud of our kids. I have a great group of guys, and they left everything they had out on the field,” said Incontrera, who added that his squad had improved a great deal from the start of the year.
With the Glenelg win, and subsequent Centennial victory against Winters Mill, the two teams will meet Monday in a rematch of the season-opener, when the Eagles ended the Gladiators’ streak of 60 consecutive wins against county opponents.
“There were some expectations in that first game that the coaches had and the kids didn’t,” Hatmaker said. “I challenged some of the kids that maybe didn’t prepare as they should have.
“We still have to go out and play. Centennial is good. They fly around, and their defense is fantastic. But, we know more about them now, and that’s good for us.”