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Century boys lacrosse finding a ‘new appreciation’ for the future despite coronavirus pandemic

Century head coach Jeremy Benson, with the finalist trophy at his feet, stands with his players as they appluad the opposition, following the Knights loss to Glenelg during the Class 2A boys lacrosse state championship game at Paint Branch High School on Tuesday, May 21.
Century head coach Jeremy Benson, with the finalist trophy at his feet, stands with his players as they appluad the opposition, following the Knights loss to Glenelg during the Class 2A boys lacrosse state championship game at Paint Branch High School on Tuesday, May 21. (Brian Krista / Carroll County Times)

Century’s boys lacrosse team played in its first state championship game in program history last May. The Knights came up short against Glenelg in the Class 2A final, but the loss only increased their expectations for the future.

Looking back, the Knights knew what they were up against, but nothing prepared them for a global pandemic wiping out their 2020 season — dashing any hopes of returning to another title game.

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Gov. Larry Hogan announced March 5 that three people in Montgomery County tested positive for the coronavirus — the first three known cases in Maryland. Hogan later declared a state of emergency and schools shut down for two weeks, starting March 16, but it was extended through mid-May.

Karen Salmon, the state superintendent of schools, announced May 6 that Maryland schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year as the virus continued to spread.

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“Not having a season really makes you appreciate what we had last year and what we can have going forward,” said Century’s Landon Bruce, a junior defender. “After losing a lot of kids after states last year, we were confident going into this season and we’re still losing that opportunity to make a states run again and it makes me appreciate that I still have one more year.”

Bruce transferred to Century after one year at Boys’ Latin and helped the Knights lock things down on defense from the start. The Knights allowed just 13 goals through four playoffs games leading up to the state final against Glenelg.

They suffered just two losses in the regular season — Westminster, the undefeated 3A state champion, and Middletown. The Gladiators pulled away to win the 2A final 11-7, and Century finished 16-3.

“It was my first year at Century and my first time playing with all those guys, first time playing for Coach [Jeremy] Benson,” Bruce said. “At the start of the season, everything looked decent and we thought we could make a playoff run. About halfway through the season, it started clicking for everyone, especially me, that we could actually make this run.

“When playoffs came around, we kept winning, and that states game was just a really surreal moment.”

This is Benson’s fifth year as Century’s coach and he said he wanted to make the Knights as competitive as possible upon taking over. The team had made early playoff exits in previous seasons, but last spring was different.

“Going to states really showed how they put in the work, bought in and everyone knew their role,” Benson said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. The first two teams we played were county teams and we had beaten them and respected them. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We lost to Damascus in a scrimmage and beat them … it was such an awesome game …we were just kind of floating from that point.

“I’m really proud of what we accomplished.”

Century's Sean Willet, left, keeps possession of the ball as he's pressured by Glenelg's Michael Doughty during the Class 2A boys lacrosse state championship game at Paint Branch High School on Tuesday, May 21.
Century's Sean Willet, left, keeps possession of the ball as he's pressured by Glenelg's Michael Doughty during the Class 2A boys lacrosse state championship game at Paint Branch High School on Tuesday, May 21. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The cancellation of the 2020 season was a harsh reality for this year’s Knights — Benson said he teared up when he heard the news that the school closure period would be extended through May. The team was able to get one scrimmage in March 12 against Churchill, and it showed promise.

Benson said the 2019 class molded the program into a better atmosphere all around, with friendlier teammates and younger players ready to make an impact. This year’s seniors won’t get to play their final season, but for juniors such as Bruce, it’s a chance to take control when lacrosse does return.

“There’s a new appreciation for it,” Benson said. “It’s just like in the playoffs, you don’t know whats going to happen or how the ball’s going to roll or how the refs are going to make calls. The young guys are the leaders moving forward.”

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