For most of the fourth quarter, Liberty boys lacrosse seniors Jared Cirulli and Jack Boyer were standing on the sidelines.
They had already done their damage. It was time for reserves to get their chance in Liberty's 15-0 win over South Hagerstown Thursday night.
Boyer had a game-high five goals. Junior Mark Conway had four goals. Cirulli, the team's leading scorer entering the game, had just one goal. But it was all that would be necessary. The result was never in doubt.
The Lions (4-0) led 7-0 at the end of the first quarter and nearly every starter provided at least one highlight. Junior midfielder Jason Stead won every face-off he took in the first quarter. Jack Griffin and Noah Rohrer both forced turnovers that led to transition goals.
Thus, many of the starters were on the sidelines for most of the second half with the exception of man-up situations. Facing constant pressure, South Hagerstown goalie Joey Garland had 13 saves.
"What I liked is we were able to give a lot of different players that have been working so hard in practice their opportunities," Liberty coach Mike Flemming said.
The Lions are the defending Class 2A-1A West region champions and returned the county's two leading scorers: Cirulli and Boyer. Expectations are higher and the schedule is more difficult.
The Lions have just four home games and several difficult road matchups, including a showdown with Howard County power Glenelg Monday. Flemming said he wanted his team to be tested before the postseason.
Liberty lost to Southern in the 2A-1A state semifinals last year in front of a huge crowd in Bel Air.
"I think I definitely learned what it takes to succeed at that level," Boyer said.
He started rattling off what it takes to beat state powers in the postseason: Excellent defense, balanced scoring.
"Basically," he said, "you need everything."
Boyer said this year's defense so far has been improved. The Lions are giving up an average of just four goals per game. The defense was mostly untested against South Hagerstown (0-3) on Thursday night. But against Glenelg and in county matchups to follow, the opposite will likely hold true.
Conway, a junior, had a season-high four goals Thursday. This is his second year of playing alongside Cirulli and Boyer, who are in their third seasons of pacing the Liberty attack.
"The continuity and growth has just been phenomenal," Flemming said of his attack.
The players have embraced higher expectations as a result. With so many key players returning for another year in their roles, Liberty has hopes of another successful season and playoffs run.
There will be precious few games where the starters will have the luxury of literally taking a half off. After Glenelg, the Lions play seven straight county opponents. Flemming said the talent in Carroll County is now comparable to any other area in the state.
The Lions said they are up for the challenge.
"We are playing a tougher schedule," Cirulli said. "That will definitely make us stronger."
Goals: L-Jack Boyer 5, Mark Conway 4, Michael Smith 2, Paul Fiscella 2, Jarrett Pfeifer, Jared Cirulli.