The Loyola lacrosse team barely made the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference playoffs, able to sneak in on the season's final day and then following up with an improbable run to Friday's championship game against undefeated and No. 1 Boys' Latin.
But the No. 4 Dons saved their best and most astonishing feat for the title game.
Overcoming a six-goal deficit early and then down two goals late in the fourth quarter, the Dons scored the game's last three goals — with senior attackman Devin McNamara providing the game-winner with 1:56 remaining — to come away with a stunning 10-9 upset win over the No. 1 Lakers in front of an announced 6,271 at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“I'll tell you what: The game was a microcosm of our season,” Loyola coach Jack Crawford said. “Our kids just don't get flustered. In the back of my mind, when it was 6-0, I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, here we go again,' that it was going to be like last year [a 17-3 loss to Calvert Hall in last year's championship game]. But once we got within 6-3, I felt we were OK. Our kids just don't roll over.”
This is Loyola's 12th overall championship and their fourth in the MIAA, with the last title coming in 2008.
Loyola, which went 3-6 in league play during the regular season to earn the sixth seed, finishes its season with a 13-8 mark. Boys' Latin, ranked No. 1 in the nation throughout the season in the NIKE/US Lacrosse Top 25 poll, lost its first game in shocking fashion after winning 19 straight.
McNamara, who was the dominant performer throughout the playoffs for the Dons, finished with two goals and four assists. His final high school goal will go down in MIAA history as one of the most profound ever. With 1:56 to play, he cut to the goal, took a feed from senior midfielder Tim Nordbrook (four goals, one assist) and finished promptly to give the Dons their first lead of the game at 10-9. The Lakers had two shots go high and wide on their last possession before Dons midfielder Bennett Bradley intercepted a pass in front with five seconds left and cleared it to the other side of the field. Shortly after, the Dons bench erupted in jubilation.
“Obviously, it's heartbreaking,” Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver said. “We're all heart broken. We had a six-goal lead and scored three goals in the last 43 minutes. It's only the second time all year that we didn't get to double digits and the first time we won 9-7.”
It can be argued the Dons made the most improbable run to the championship game in league history. After a loss to Calvert Hall in the regular-season finale, they were on the outside of the playoff picture and many seniors were sitting in the locker room telling each other how much they enjoyed playing together.
But Mount St. Joseph, already eliminated from the playoffs, upset St. Mary's in double-overtime to give Loyola the sixth and final seed. From there, the Dons visited third-seeded Gilman and came away with a 17-14 win in the quarterfinals before comfortably handling second-seeded McDonogh, 13-4, in Tuesday's semifinal.
On Friday, Boys' Latin wasted no time stating its case. The Lakers scored on their first three shots — getting goals from Shack Stanwick, Colin Heacock and Keegan O'Connor in the opening three minutes and also got a big opening save from goalie Christian Knight on the Dons' first possession.
The lead would increase to 6-0 after the first quarter — Heacock adding two more goals — but the Dons ended their scoring drought when Nordbrook scored with 9:14 left in the second quarter and controlled the remaining first half to cut the lead to 7-4 at the break. The momentum would continue in the Dons' direction as they scored three unanswered goals in the third quarter to tie the game at 7 going into the fourth quarter.
Boys' Latin appeared to restore order with Devin Shewell and Michael Lynch making it 9-7 with about 11 minutes to play, but the Dons had the final say, with Nordbrook scoring and then Ryan Conrad tying the game with 2:44 left before McNamara sealed the championship.
Sts. Peter & Paul 13, John Carroll 10: The Sabres (13-5) from Easton captured their second straight title, with Andrew D'Albora providing the spark on attack with four goals and two assists.
Leading 9-7 late in the third quarter, the Sabres got goals from Cory Yoviene, D'Albora, and Matt Sovero to take firm control in the fourth. John Carroll (12-6) got a three-goal performance from Sully Gerety, and Jake Brown added two goals.
The Patriots won both regular-season games against Sts. Peter & Paul, claiming a 12-10 win April 9 and a 13-8 victory May 10.
Gerstell Academy 12, St. John's Catholic Prep 6: Casey Gruber (four goals, one assist) and Steven Snyder (two goals, three assists) led the attack, and goalie Jacob Betz turned away 17 shots to lead the Falcons (16-3) to their second straight C championship.
With the game tied at 2 after one quarter, Gerstell got unanswered second-quarter goals from Jacob Page (two goals), Ben Higgins (one goal, one assist), Gruber and Nicholas Wilson (two goals) to claim a 6-2 halftime lead. The Falcons put the game away in the third when they outscored St. Johns' 4-1.
The teams split two games in the regular season, with Gerstell winning, 12-6, on March 27 before St. John's claimed an 11-10 overtime win April 24.
4 Loyola 101 Boys' Latin 9
Goals: L—Nordbrook 4, McNamara 2, Conrad 2, Llewellyn, Roesner; BL—Stanwick , O'Connor , Heacock 3, Bruno, Lynch 2, Shewell Assists: L—Jackson, McNamara 4, Nordbrook; BL—Heacock, Stanwick 2.Saves: L—Newton ; BL—Knight .
Half: BL, 7-4.
Sts. Peter & Paul 13John Carroll 10
Goals: SPP—D'Albora 4, Grieves 3, Lacaze 2, Zentgraf 2, Sovero, Yoviene ;JC—Gerety 3, Brown 2, Thompson, Grube, Watson, McIntyre, Riley. Assists: SPP—D'Albora 2, Grieves 2, Lacaze, Socero, Zentrgraf; JC—Grube, Saunders, Thompson. Saves: SPP—Sturmer 14; JC—Gambrell 2. Half: SPP, 8-6
Gerstell 12St. John's-Catholic Prep 6
Goals: SJ—Wilson 2, Delente 2, C. Snyder, Tyler; G – Gruber 4, S. Snyder 2, Page 2, Wilson 2, Higgins, Bauhof. Assists: SJ —Gauvin Johnson, C. Snyder; G—S. Snyder 3, Tabak 2, Gruber, Higgins, Lanza. Saves: SJ—Coulean 11; G—Betz, 17
Half: G, 6-2