GAITHERSBURG — The thought before every big game has been the same for the Severna Park boys lacrosse team in recent years, echoed once again by coach Dave Earl on Saturday.
“If we can go out and play Severna Park lacrosse, I think we should be OK,” he said.
And that’s what the No. 9 Falcons did in the Class 4A state semifinal against Winston Churchill, taking hold early and never letting up for a 12-4 win at Gaithersburg High School that puts them one victory away from a fourth straight state title.
Michael Harmeyer (five goals), Connor Panebianco (three goals, two assists) and James Maher (five assists) precisely executed the offense; Colin Shadowens more than held his own on faceoffs and goalie Casey Fox made nine saves as the Falcons dominated every phase.
Severna Park (18-1) will meet Howard – a 15-2 winner over Bowie in Saturday’s other semifinal – for the championship, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday at Paint Branch High School.
Playing hard and executing the game plan was the key to a 4-0 advantage that set the tone on Saturday. It was nothing new for the Falcons, who will take aim at the program’s ninth state crown on Wednesday.
“I think on all phases of the team we have really good chemistry and we all just work well together,” said Harmeyer, who has 95 goals on the season. “I think that goes with us practicing hard every single day and just being around each other a lot. So when we come out for games like this, we know what we want to do. We all just compete really hard and that showed today.”
Saturday’s game was a rematch of the past two state title games with the Falcons one goal better than the Bulldogs (11-6) in both games.
This year, with the Bulldogs bringing less experience compared to past teams, it wasn’t close.
Every phase of the game had a say to send the Falcons on to the title game.
A scrappy takeaway at midfield set up the game’s first goal on the Falcons’ second possession – Panebianco scoring off a feed from Maher less than two minutes into play.
Shadowens won a couple faceoffs early and the ball eventually ended up in Harmeyer’s stick for the next two goals. After Cameron Bear made it 4-0 with 2:56 to play, Fox made a point-blank save with the Bulldogs having the extra man.
Leading 7-2 at the half, the Falcons left no doubt with the first three goals of the third quarter – Panebianco opening the scoring off a feed from Maher a little more than a minute in.
“Our chemistry is great,” Panebianco said. “We’ve been playing since the beginning of the school year, pick-up games to get our chemistry down and it just feels really good to be clicking at the end of the season.”
Earl was pleased to see one of the team’s sharpest practices from a stickwork standpoint take place going into Saturday’s game and then seeing it immediately carry over.
“I think offensively we were just on point,” he said.
“When you can jump out on a team as good as Churchill, it’s big. And we always talk about it beforehand -- to give the other team no hope. That’s kind of what happens when you can jump out on them.”
Next up is Howard.
“I think they’re very athletic, very welll coached with a lot of experience, so we’re looking forward to it. I think it will be a great game,” said Earl.
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Goals: C – Gumucio 2, Bunten, Butler; SP – Harmeyer 5, Grifftih 2, Panebianco 3, Wood, Bear. Assists: C – Humiston, Abel, Dubick; Sp – Maher 5, Panebianco 2. Saves: C – Robinson 15; SP – Fox 9. Half: SP, 7-2