When it was the South River boys' turn, after a stunning, 10-8 comeback win over Westminster in the Class 4A-3A final, the sticks flew a bit higher, the celebratory pile came together quicker and the smiles were broader.
The No. 8 Seahawks had more to enjoy than bringing home the program's second state championship Wednesday at rainy UMBC Stadium. They also savored a 20-0 season. The way they accomplished the feat made it even more special, overcoming a 7-0 deficit with a glimmer of hope at the end of the second quarter followed by a dominating performance the rest of the way.
They also withstood a 30-minute delay at the start of the game caused by the late arrival of the Westminster bus, then a one-hour, 43-minute weather delay that suspended play with 2:33 remaining.
For the Seahawks, who got a sparkling 17-save performance from junior goalie Nick Marcelino and two goals each from Chris Carr and Ben Chisolm, it was all worth the wait.
"These kids showed a lot of heart because at 7-0, we could have very easily caved in on this whole thing," South River coach Paul Noone said. "Give these guys a lot of credit in that they hung in there and did the best they could. We were talking on the sidelines, if we could just cut this thing in half before we get into halftime, we thought we'd be OK and then we could make a little run in the second half. Sure enough, we did.
"For the record, what happened here this year is these kids went 20-0, and it's never been done at South River. We never predicted it, we did try to chase it after a certain period. But these guys are tough, and I kind of like them."
After cutting the 7-0 deficit to 7-4 in the final 4:30 of the first half, Marcelino made eight saves in a third quarter in which the Seahawks outscored the Owls (16-3) by a 9-1 margin to claim their first lead. Michael Strange provided the goal that gave them their second lead at 9-8 with eight seconds left in the quarter. With a 10-8 lead after play resumed late in the fourth quarter, Marcelino made three more saves to secure the win.
"I just think I saw the ball a little better [after the 7-0 deficit], and my defense helped me out a lot, too. I knew they had my back," Marcelino said.
Although the Westminster bus got lost on the way to UMBC, the Owls came to the field ready.
Dominating on faceoffs, with Travis Wunder winning seven of the first eight, collecting all the ground balls and precisely finishing their scoring chances, they stunned the Seahawks with the game's first seven goals. Jesse Uhlman, Mike Kibler and Nick McDonough each scored two goals in the fast start, Kibler's second providing the 7-0 advantage with 8:20 left in the first half.
It wasn't until the 4:30 mark of the second quarter — 19 minutes, 30 seconds after the opening whistle — that the Seahawks were able to get on the scoreboard when Tyler White got a step on a defender and finally beat Doyle. The Seahawks, finally finding their footing, made the most of the final minutes of the half with Chris Carr, Jon Carr and Matthew Gaskins each scoring to pull within 7-4 at the break.
"I didn't have any sense [the string of goals was coming], I just knew we had to take it one goal at a time," Chris Carr said. "That's what coach talked about in the locker room, to just keep chipping away, and once we started doing that, we just kept going and didn't look back."
For Westminster, McDonough led the attack with three goals and one assist. Goalie Nick Doyle turned back 12 South River shots.
"First of all, I'm very proud of the guys — they gave it everything they had today," Westminster coach Steve DeFeo said. "We're an exciting team, and obviously they're an exciting team as well, and they ended up getting two more goals than we did. As far as the season goes, I'm extremely proud of where our team was on March 1 and where they are today, May 23. They came an extremely long way."
Goals: W—Uhlman 2, Carder, Kibler 2, McDonough 3; SR—White, C. Carr 2, J. Carr, Gaskins, Chisolm 2, Davis, Chaney, Strange.
Assists: W—McDonough, Uhlman, Drenner 3; SR—Chaney 2, White, Kneisly.
Saves: W—Doyle 12; SR—Marcelino 17.
Half: W, 7-4.