Evan Whatley put on a show Friday night.
The Glenelg senior outscored Century by himself in the Gladiators’ 16-6 win over the Knights in the 2A West Region I championship. Whatley scored seven goals, including five of Glenelg’s first six scores, to lead the Gladiators to the region crown in a rematch of the 2019 2A state title game.
“He’s a special kid,” said Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker about Whatley. “He’s so effective at putting the ball in the back of the net. He found the advantages and the opportunities, and he’s not going to miss.”
Whatley was quick after the game to praise his teammates, and deservedly so, as the Gladiators were stout on defense, excellent on ground balls and precise with their attack.
“I was just the guy who scored the goals,” Whatley said. “Every game, we have a guy who scores a lot of goals, and tonight it was me. We’re a team. We all love each other and trust each other.”
Glenelg (8-1) will be re-seeded by regular season record along with the seven other region champions. Their state playoff quarterfinal opponent is to be determined.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Hatmaker said. “I’m very fortunate to coach here. The kids that we get are excellent. Not only are they excellent as lacrosse players but they’re excellent kids too. This was a great team effort — offense, defense, face-offs, everything.”
The Gladiators didn’t wait long to score in the contest played at Centennial High due to weather.
Less than a minute in, Wyatt Haney scored off a pass from Colin Buch to give the Gladiators an early lead that they would never relinquish.
Whatley, who in 2019 was called up from JV and was on the bench for the Gladiators’ state title run, then scored the Gladiators next five goals from early in the first quarter to midway through the second to boost Glenelg’s lead to 6-1.
“Last time we played this team was in the state championship, so we knew we needed to start fast,” Whatley said.
Whatley scored in a myriad of ways Friday. His final two goals in the first period were off slick passes from Kevin Doughty and Buch, while his two scores to open the second quarter displayed his athleticism as he created separation to get a clean look at the goal.
“He’s a really talented kid. The stuff he does in practice blows your mind,” Hatmaker said. “If he’s got his hands free, it doesn’t matter if he’s three feet from the cage or 12 yards from the cage, he’s going to put it in the back of the net.”
After Buch increased Glenelg’s lead to 7-1, Century (7-1) — which entered the game undefeated — scored two of the next three goals to enter halftime down five.
The Knights and the Gladiators went back and forth in the third period, but Century couldn’t gain enough momentum to go on a run. Century coach Jeremy Benson said Glenelg’s speed was the difference-maker in the game.
“They played really fast,” Benson said. “Offensively, I don’t think we had a terrible game, but once [Glenelg] started scoring like that, it was hard for the offense to stay in their pocket. But we weren’t ready for that speed.”
Century’s attack had its moments, but when Glenelg’s zone defense was set up and ready to go, the Knights couldn’t find many good opportunities to score. And when they did, Glenelg goalies Charlie Wendel (first half) and Stephen DeSantis (second half) were there to stop them.
“A big credit to our defense,” Whatley said. “This is a really good Century team, and they only gave up six goals. It feels great to trust your defense. I know that if we make a mistake on offense that our defense is going to get us the ball back.”
Glenelg’s Connor Iannarino achieved an impressive feat in the second half, scoring a hat trick despite being the Gladiators’ face-off, get-off specialist.
“He’s one of our better shooters on offense, but he’s so important to use on face-offs,” Hatmaker said. “Connor won a lot clean, but even when he didn’t win the draw, he was creating ground balls and getting the ball back.”
In total, seven Gladiators scored in the win. Glenelg has scored 39 in its two playoff contests and is averaging 13.4 goals a game this season.
Despite the loss, Benson said he is “proud” of his senior class, who battled through the adversity of missing their junior season due to COVID to win the Carroll County championship this season.
“We had a great 2020 class with a bunch of college kids, who they should’ve been able to learn from...So these seniors had to come in and be leaders without getting to play a varsity season,” Benson said. “That was hard on them, but they really stepped up. I’m grateful we had a season and won a county championship, and that doesn’t happen without our seniors.”
Glenelg will learn who its state quarterfinal opponent will be, as well as the time and location of the contest, this weekend.
Glenelg 16, Century 6
Goals: G — Evan Whatley 7, Connor Iannarino 3, Colin Buch 2, Kevin Doughty, Rocco Bushcer, Nick Dalton, Wyatt Haney; Ce — Jackson Zimmer 2, Erik Harrell, Andrew Marcinko, Cooper Santos, Connor Zombro.
Assists: G — Doughty 3, Buch 2, Haney; Ce — N/A.
Saves: G — Charlie Wendel 8, Stephen DeSantis 4; Ce — N/A.
Halftime: 8-3, G.