There was excitement and satisfaction and also a big sense of relief for the No. 1 Boys' Latin lacrosse team Friday at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium, an understandable mixed bag of emotions.
Before that was a continuation of the excellent play the Lakers displayed all season as they overpowered No. 2 St. Paul's, 17-11, to claim the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship and complete an 18-0 season.
It's the 10th league championship and fourth in the MIAA for Boys' Latin, which was the league's last team to enjoy a perfect season when it went 21-0 in 2006. For this year's talented senior class, led by the program's all-time leading scorer, Shack Stanwick, it also helped ease the pain of last year's 10-9 championship game loss to Loyola that spoiled an undefeated season.
“The whole game I was never comfortable with the lead, just because what happened last year,” Stanwick said. “So, I was nervous the whole game but guys ... stepped up today, and I think ultimately that won us the game.”
Junior Devin Shewell had four goals and two assists to lead the Lakers, who also got two goals and two assists from Stanwick and three goals and another strong faceoff performance from Hunter Moreland.
A four-goal splurge in the middle of the third quarter and two goals from Moreland in the first 21 seconds of the fourth quarter gave the Lakers a 14-8 lead, but the Crusaders had one last run to cut the lead to 14-11 with 7:52 to play.
From there, the Lakers were finally able to gain separation with two goals by Colin Chell and another by Shewell for a 17-11 lead.
“They play with incredible joy, they love the game of lacrosse,” Boys' Latin coach Bob Shriver said. “They like to play and they like each other. Look, in the back of everybody's mind was last year. Well, you know, we can put that demon to rest — they're 37-1 in two years. That's just remarkable stuff.”
The Crusaders, who got four goals and an assist from senior Mikey Wynne, finished the season 13-7.
Stanwick leaves as the program's all-time leading scorer and a champion. It will mark the end not only of his stellar four-year career, but also of a family dynasty that has supplied more than two decades of lacrosse excellence. He's the youngest of eight siblings, all of whom starred for their respective teams.
The championship seemed long overdue for the Lakers, who have regularly been in position for titles in recent years, only to fall frustratingly short.
In the 2010 championship game, the Crusaders enjoyed a dominating second half against the Lakers to roll to a 17-7 win. The following spring, the Lakers yielded three short-handed goals to Gilman in the final minute of regulation in the semifinal round and went on to fall 7-6 in overtime.
And then came last year when they were ranked No. 1 nationally from the start of the season and went 19-0 before falling to sixth-seeded Loyola, 10-9, in the championship game after leading 6-0 early.
Friday's game came with an unavoidable amount of pressure for the Lakers, who showed championship poise. They opened with the game's first three goals, but weren't able to pull away from the Crusaders in the first half, taking an 8-5 lead at the break.
Shewell scored his second goal of the game with two seconds left in the first quarter to give the Lakers a 5-1 lead. BJ Mattheiss scored in the opening minute of the second quarter and Wynne followed soon after to cut the deficit to 5-3.
After St. Paul's cut the lead to 5-3 in the opening minute of the second quarter, Stanwick scored his first goal from far out with Crusaders goalie AJ Barretto caught out of the cage with 6:59 remaining in the first half. It was the first of a three-goal run within a minute as Stanwick set up Chell and then scored his second goal for an 8-3 lead with 6:07 left before the half.
MIAA A championship
(at Towson University)
No. 1 Boys' Latin, No. 2 St. Paul's
Goals: SP – Wynne 4, Mattheiss 2, Flaig, Sheehan, Gordon, Pollard, Riehl ;
BL – Moyer, Bruno, Shewell 4, Spencer, Stanwick 2, Chell 3, Moreland 3, O'Connor, Brown .
Assists: SP – Anderson, Flaig, Wynne, Sheehan;
BL – Bruno, O'Connor, Stanwick 2, Shewell 2, Spencer.
Saves: SP – Barretto ;
BL – Pezzulla
Half: BL, 8-5