The last two seasons for the Howard boys lacrosse program have been filled with many firsts.
In 2013, the Lions won a regional title, and advanced to the state semis for the first time in the modern era. This season, the squad is undefeated, won its first county title in 23 years, and will play for a state championship.
To put it bluntly, this group has been on a mission, and following Saturday’s 4A/3A state semifinal win over Dulaney to advance to the title bout, coaches and players alike already had their minds on the next and final opponent: South River.
Last year, as Howard looked ready to take the program to the next level, the Seahawks dashed those hopes swiftly and effectively, coming away with the 15-6 victory. It was the last time Howard lost a game.
Cody Ford (3 goals) and Leo Sementilli were the only active players on this year’s roster to score in the loss.
As Howard coaches and players met together over the offseason to appraise the state of the program, there was much to discuss. Sure, it was a great season, and many of the team goals they set were accomplished along the way. But, like all great competitors, these Lions knew they left something out there on the field at Annapolis High School.
This season began with Howard playing the role of the county dark horse, as no league team had defeated Glenelg in 60 consecutive tries.
The Lions began their ascent to the county’s peak, knocking off schools like Reservoir, Marriotts Ridge, Centennial, Mt. Hebron, and, finally, the Gladiators. The team continued to rattle off wins against the rest of the county, putting up convincing performances against the likes of Oakland Mills (22-1 victory) and Hammond (19-1), as well as a solid season finale against River hill (7-4).
Individually, the Lions have seen quite a bit of success as well.
John Travisano, one of the county’s most skilled faceoff specialists, has won 86 percent of his chances from the X. His ability to create those extra possessions, as well as score right off the whistle, gives Howard a leg up on almost every opponent.
The offense in general features a multitude of scorers. Ford (38 goals), Sementilli (20 goals, 25 assists) and Travisano (36 goals, 14 assists) can bury shots with the best of them. Scott Bruner (43 goals, 16 assists) and Brad Zulick (40 goals, 13 assists) can bring the pressure as well.
Defensively, the Lions allowed opponents to score an average of just less than three goals a game during the regular season. Peter Emery, Nick Demers, Marshall McGlone, Adam Friedman and goalie Bryan Mauser (73 percent between the pipes) all played a big role in that.
The Lions will face South River Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, trying to put those finishing touches on an undefeated season.