The sound would loudly and routinely resonate from the Bel Air sideline, a declaration of good fortune for the school's boys lacrosse team: "Yanneee!"

While none of the Bobcats had any idea what it meant, they all knew what was coming next: a chest bump of epic proportion.

That's how Bel Air coach Scoop Kelly celebrated a big goal, his passion for lacrosse and for his beloved program on full display in a sudden burst of excitement. But the big goals that would have called for Kelly's sideline celebration haven't been the same this season.

The No. 12 Bobcats (4-1) have dedicated the season to their former coach, who died Feb. 15 at age 40 after complications from a car accident.


Follow @SunVarsity on Twitter.

In nine seasons at Bel Air, Kelly won 100 games and turned the program into a perennial power in Harford County.

He did it with a fiery disposition that his players enthusiastically followed. The Bobcats, a talented group coming off a 12-4 season, have even more to play for now.

The Bel Air team thinks about Kelly's fierce competitiveness, like the time he was so revved up before a game against C. Milton Wright last season that he snapped the lacrosse stick he was unknowingly banging against the wall during his pre-game speech.

The Bobcats are closer now, and they take the field with more purpose.

It showed up in last Friday's 7-4 home win against Fallston, Kelly's alma mater and the team he wanted to beat the most. The game was played in his memory.

"His pre-game speeches, nothing beat them," said senior defenseman Connor Beil, who was first called up to varsity as a freshman. "Especially Fallston — some explicit words were used to pump us up."

Kelly, who also taught social studies at Bel Air, was heavily involved in club lacrosse and knew most of his players before they came to the Bel Air program. Senior attackman Calvin Fleagle, who scored four goals in the win against Fallston, was getting ready to start eighth grade when he met Kelly at a summer tournament.

He left with more than a favorable first impression.

"He introduced himself to me and I could tell right away what a great guy he was and how much he loved lacrosse," said Fleagle, who was first called up to varsity late in his freshman season. "He gave me a pair of gloves and I thought he was the coolest guy in the world. It meant a lot to me because it was the first time I ever talked to him and it bonded our relationship. I wore them for three years."

Every player that passed by Kelly's classroom stopped in. The conversations could range from school to college to family to life and, of course, lacrosse. Kelly, who played attack at Mary Washington, always had an attentive ear and encouragement.

"He was always there for us and wanted the best for us," said senior Joey Creaghan, a four-year varsity player and standout at midfield. "He was dedicated to the program more than anything. You could always go to him if you had a problem. He was like a second dad to us."

It made March 1 — the team's first day of practice — extraordinarily tough.

New coach Chuck Muir was Kelly's assistant for the past seven years, so his familiarity provided valuable stability in the trying situation. But on that day, it was apparent the program would never be the same.

"The first practice was strange because we just kept waiting for Scoop to walk up," Muir said. "The reality hadn't set in that he wasn't going to be coming out there, so it was an eye opener."

Before the team's first game — against Loch Raven on March 24 — Muir received a phone call from Kelly's mother to wish the team good luck.

"I could just hear in her voice that it was a tough moment," Muir said. "So I let the kids know about it. We're just trying to dedicate the season in Scoop's memory and do the best we can."