During the last three years, the Howard boys lacrosse program has been growing into one of the county's elite. Undefeated so far this season, including a statement win against fellow league power Centennial, the Lions were looking to do something that no player on their roster had ever achieved: take down Glenelg.
Friday night, Howard welcomed the Gladiators for a matchup that felt less like a standard game in mid-April, and more like a championship showdown.
On the heels of Cody Ford's three goals – including two fourth quarter rockets less than 30 seconds apart – the Lions pulled through, 9-6, to finally achieve that elusive victory.
"We just played a very good team," Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. "They are a team that has really taken it to us over the last three years, so beating them feels good for all our guys, especially our seniors. It's pretty special."
The Lions (7-0, 8-0) got out to a fast start in the first quarter, thanks to goals from Scott Bruner, Brad Zulick and Leo Sementilli. Luke Cheswick's feed to Tyler Wasson was the lone early tally for the visitors.
Glenelg (5-2, 5-3) finally got into a rhythm after a few faceoff wins and a stout defensive showing in the second period. Cheswick, Jeremy Rigali and Carson Marshall all delivered on shots past Howard goalie Bryan Mauser. With possession momentum in favor of the Gladiators, as well as a stifling back line that failed to give an inch for the entire quarter, the Lions had a tough time creating any chances.
"We made an adjustment defensively," Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. "It slowed them down and frustrated them a little bit."
Tied at halftime, with the Gladiators having climbed back from an early 4-1 deficit, the Lions put together a sensational team performance in the second half. Controlling the possessions proved to be the difference in the game.
When they were finally able to win a ground ball or two, the Glenelg offensive attack was short-lived.
"Against great teams like Howard, you have to take advantage of all the little things – at key points," Hatmaker said. "That killed us."
With both teams knotted at five goals each in the third quarter, Bruner connected on a pass from Zulick just as time expired on the clock. That shot, according to Creighton, helped fuel his team's ensuing run.
"We're only halfway through the season. We're hoping to be still playing for another month and a half," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. We'll just keep pressing on, keep working hard and keep preaching to the guys that we want to be playing in late May. If you're going to get complacent, you're not going to be there."
Howard 9, Glenelg 6
Goals: H – Scott Bruner (3), Cody Ford (3), Brad Zulick (2), Leo Sementilli; G – Jeremy Rigali (2), Tyler Wasson, Luke Cheswick, Carson Marshall, Nick Forrest.
Assists: H – Nolan Dunnigan (2), Zulick (2), Sementilli (2), Bruner; G – Cheswick.
Saves: H – Bryan Mauser 11; G – Landry Marshall 8.
The Dragons snapped a losing streak that dated back to the 2012 season Friday, defeating St. Johns 11-10.
"The boys have fought so hard to turn this program around," Glenelg Country coach Risto Worthington said. "They have never given up no matter how disappointed, or what others have said. I am so proud of them, and I know there are many more wins on the horizon."