For Glenelg, the hole turned out to be just a little too deep. Up against four-time defending state champion Hereford at the University of Maryland Baltimore County Thursday, with this year's 3A/2A state title on the line, the Gladiators fell behind by seven goals at the half and were unable to battle all the way back.
The Bulls, aided by big offensive outings from Joe Seider (5 goals, assist) and Jason Ashwood (4 goals, assist), ended up holding off a furious second-half Glenelg rally to earn a 13-8 victory.
"It's the elephant in the room, but we dug ourselves a hole," Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. "I thought we outplayed them in the second (half) … but you dig yourself a seven-goal hole against those guys and it's a slippery slope."
Glenelg got back within two goals, 9-7, in the fourth quarter, but simply didn't have enough left to complete the comeback and prevent the Bulls from winning their fifth straight title. The five consecutive championships are a boys lacrosse state record.
"We had a good warm-up and we carried it on … we shot the ball well," Hereford coach Brian King said. "You have to give (Glenelg) a lot of credit, though, that might have been the longest second half of my life. They came back strong and played hard."
Although Glenelg (17-3) regrouped well, Hereford (19-1) getting off to such a strong start was ultimately the difference.
By the time Glenelg finally managed its first shot on goal, seven minutes into the first quarter, Hereford had already peppered the Gladiator net with eight shots and built a 3-0 lead.
It took another six minutes, when Nick Wynne (3 goals, 2 assists) capitalized on a broken play early in the second quarter, for Glenelg to get its first goal.
"Offensively, we weren't moving well off ball. We were making some bad decisions, pushing the ball into double teams," Hatmaker said. "It was uncharacteristic. It's not something that we typically do. I think it was like snowball effect, once one thing happened, the next thing happened and then you are pressing and you put yourself in an even deeper hole."
Hereford's Ashwood had opened the scoring just over a minute into the game and Morgan Pritchett then upped the lead to 2-0 two minutes later. Ashwood added another score shortly after to give the Bulls a three-goal cushion they maintained throughout the opening quarter.
Then, after Wynne temporarily had cut the deficit to two, Hereford rolled off five more consecutive goals to take an 8-1 lead into halftime. Seider accounted for all five of the Bulls' goals in the second quarter.
"I think every single goal I had was an assisted goal, by Jack (Adams) dodging … Pritchett dodging or (Josh Reider) dodging. I just cut off ball off their great play," Seider said. "It was just great play by the whole team pretty much."
Glenelg did come out rejuvenated in the second half and made sure Hereford wasn't simply able to coast to the title.
Starting with an unassisted man-up goal by Mark Darden (2 goals, assist) with 7:14 left in the third quarter, the Gladiators began playing the kind of lacrosse that had earned them their third straight appearance in the state title game. Winning face-offs, making crisper passes and then finishing when the chances presented themselves, Glenelg cut the Hereford lead to 9-5 by the end of the third quarter.
"We were just trying to slowly chip away and get our team back in the game," Darden said.
The momentum for Glenelg carried over into the fourth quarter, as back-to-back goals by Darden and Glenn Lucas made it a 9-7 game.
"We didn't talk any scheme at halftime. We talked about 'what's your attitude going to be in the second half?' " Hatmaker said.
"They finally said 'this is enough, this is not the way we play,' … they just turned it on."
Glenelg had a pair of chances to close the gap even further, but Hereford goalie Brock Turnbaugh (7 saves) made two huge stops. Less than a minute later, with 6:28 left in regulation, Ashwood scored the first of back-to-back goals that effectively put a damper on any comeback hopes.
"Coach said after a timeout, lets just get it around and not panic," Ashwood said. "We called our plays and once we got it around, we just went to those plays and it worked out."
Over the final four minutes, Hereford added another two goals and Glenelg added one from Mikey Wynne (2 goals, assist) to create the final five-goal margin.
In the loss, Glenelg goalie Landry Marshall ended up with 11 saves.