Marriotts Ridge's Brett Gladstone (19) lays a hit on Glenelg's Tyler Reiff (17) during a game in April. The Mustangs and Gladiators are among teams expected to vie for the county championship this spring.
Marriotts Ridge's Brett Gladstone (19) lays a hit on Glenelg's Tyler Reiff (17) during a game in April. The Mustangs and Gladiators are among teams expected to vie for the county championship this spring. (Howard County Times file)

There is a consensus among the Howard County boys lacrosse coaches entering the 2018 season: the league is up for grabs.

Last year’s champion, Marriotts Ridge, returns experienced goal-scorers in All-County attackman Peter Geier and midfielder Luke Ingersoll and the league’s best goalie in junior Colin Kelley, making them a legitimate threat to repeat.

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Nobody is counting out Howard, which won county titles from 2014 to 2016 and, even with two county defeats last year, is 42-5 in league play since the start of 2013. The Lions have Towson commit Felix Knorr back taking faceoffs, UMBC commit Ben Stephanos on defense and a 30-goal scorer in Mark Bruner.

No county team went deeper in the playoffs last year than Glenelg, which won 10 straight games and reached the state championship game after starting the year 3-6. The Gladiators, who won 60 straight county games before Howard’s run began four years ago, return one of the best midfielders in junior Tyler Reiff, who dominated in their postseason run.

Mt. Hebron is no stranger to success, either. The Vikings made a state championship-game appearance in 2016 and have two of the best sophomores in the county — midfielder Garrett Snyder and attackman Mateo Brown — to pair with one of the most experienced senior classes in the county.

Centennial might have the most impactful player in the league in senior Jeremy Wilson, who had more than 40 goals and 40 assists to lead the county in points in 2017. His supporting cast might be better than ever, as the Eagles return almost their entire starting lineup after winning 13 games last year.

River Hill could have the most potent 1-2 scoring punch in the county in senior Brendan McKenna and junior Max Friedman. The duo returns one year after the Hawks averaged more than 12 goals per game, and their senior class isn’t far removed from their run to the state final in 2015.

Even teams toward the bottom of last year’s standings have improved. Atholton hired respected Mt. Hebron assistant and alumnus Alex McCoy as its new coach, Reservoir has junior Talon Campbell and his 2017 league-leading 49 goals returning, while Wilde Lake, Oakland Mills and Hammond have experienced scoring threats in Andrew Tiffey, Nick Miller and Nick Pekins, respectively.

“I definitely think there is more parity than maybe ever in regards to the top six or seven teams,” Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. “It seems like every one of those teams brought back like six or seven starters and everybody’s got good players — All-County players — coming back and everybody is going to have a shot to beat each other. It’s going to be fun to see how it shakes out.”

So the question remains: What will it take to be the last team standing? Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera surmises it will come down to staying healthy, secondary scoring and winning faceoffs. “Every game is going to be down to the wire in my opinion,” he said.

Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker agreed that staying healthy will be the biggest factor for most teams, but beyond that it may come down to executing specific game plans in a league where every team offers something a little bit different. Plus, there are no secrets. The scouting reports are plentiful.

“Every team offers something; they’re really strong in one area,” he said. “Look at Mt. Hebron. I’m not sure what they have coming back on defense, but they have those two sophomores and they are going to score. Howard’s got a little bit of everything and they’ve got that big advantage at the faceoff X. ... I don’t think one team is head and shoulders above the rest, I really don’t.”

The Mustangs went 3-4 against nonleague competition last season but won their first six county games en route to their first outright county championship. Incontrera said he feels his team will be in the mix once again, but finding a way to replace first-team All-County players Lewy Anania and Jake Polinsky will be their biggest key to success.

“Last year we really relied on Lewy and Jake. The offense really flowed through them quite a bit, so we have to make sure the seniors we have returning on offense are ready to step into those leadership roles,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is how well we face-off and how well our defenders come along. We have strength in the cage — Colin Kelley is one of the best goalies in the state — but after that we have some new faces on defense.”

Evan Riss does it all as boys lacrosse Player of the Year

Oakland Mills senior Evan Riss headlines Howard County boys lacrosse all-county as 2017 Player of the Year.

The Lions last season had what many considered a down year despite 11 victories. They bowed out in the regional semifinals to eventual champion Severna Park after winning four straight regional titles with three appearances in the state final, but Creighton feels last year was an anomaly.

They battled a number of injuries, including to Bruner, but what frustrated Creighton more than anything was their inability to finish games.

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“Games we were in right there at the end we couldn’t close the door or close the gap, for whatever reason,” he said. “I thought we had some games that, for some reason, we got off to a slow start and we couldn’t get ourselves out of that hole we put ourselves in.”

The solution to part of that problem, in Creighton’s mind, was what his team accomplished in the offseason. He said his players bought into more weight training and conditioning, and that in turn will result in more confidence this spring.

The most important answer is likely at the faceoff X, though. Knorr, one of the county’s two All-Americans last season, is an early favorite for this year’s player of the year award and is arguably the biggest difference maker in the league because of his ability to play “make-it take-it.” The two-time first-team All-County selection won 81 percent of his draws and led the league with 191 groundballs last season and was noted for his consistency.

“The faceoff obviously in lacrosse has evolved over the years. It’s extremely important,” Creighton said. “Not only can it help get us on a roll, but it can kind of stop a team from going on a big run and we’ve had that happen now a few years in a row, where maybe a team scores a big goal or two and he comes out and wins a faceoff for us, we get a long possession and we’re able to get something going offensively. It helps in so many different ways. He’s a big part of what we do.”

Marriotts Ridge boys lacrosse avenges Mt. Hebron, 12-9

Marriotts Ridge started strong and held off Mt. Hebron in a boys lacrosse playoff game on Friday, May 12.

For Glenelg, a run toward a second straight appearance in the state final wouldn’t come as a surprise. Reiff is among the top handful of players in the county and excels on both sides of the field, but he won’t have to carry the offensive load alone. Senior Tyler Nalls, who scored 31 goals in 2017, and junior Ryan Hopkins, who had 26, have the Gladiators set up to potentially have the most potent and dynamic offense in the league.

“If we’re consistent I think we can be very good. We’re pretty balanced up and down the field,” Hatmaker said. “We have a good goalkeeper coming back, experience on defense coming back ... and I think we have the ability to score from anywhere.”

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Like Glenelg, Centennial won’t shock anyone this spring considering how many familiar faces return. Managing expectations will be the biggest key, Eagles coach Nick Kellinger said.

“We want to repeat near the top or at the top, but we know teams are gunning for us. We’re not going to surprise anyone,” he said. “We have so many guys back that they’ve seen us before and they have a pretty good idea of what we like to do.”

The scouting report for Centennial centers on Wilson. He is the catalyst for everything the Eagles do and has been for the last three years, and now he’s closing in on the school record books. The Washington College commit enters the season two points shy of breaking Evan Calvert’s record of 205 from 2003 and eight assists away from Calvert’s record of 122. He needs 61 goals to match Stephen Latona’s mark of 150 set in 2013.

“I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t score well over 100 points this year,” Kellinger said.

Second-team All-County midfielder senior Thomas Thurmond will take faceoffs and be a big part of the offense, while second-teamer Jack Schlossberg is among the best goalies. Finding a way to replace do-it-all defender Mason Smith is one of Centennial’s biggest question marks.

Glenelg boys lacrosse edges Linganore, 6-4, to advance to 3A/2A title game

Glenelg boys lacrosse beats Linganore, 6-4, in a 3A/2A state semifinal game on May 20

The Eagles lost to Glenelg in the second round of the playoffs last season but won’t need to get through the Gladiators to achieve the ultimate goal this year. In addition to the regional realignment throughout the state, the MPSSAA voted to move to four state tournaments this season — one for each classification — doing away with the previous format of 1A/2A, 2A/3A, and 3A/4A.

Centennial, Atholton, Long Reach, Mt. Hebron and Reservoir make up the 3A East, Section I, while Glenelg, Hammond, Marriotts Ridge, Oakland Mills, River Hill and Wilde Lake are in the 2A South, Section I.

Howard, after being in the 4A East region last season, is back in the 4A North, Section I.

There will also be the Columbia Cup awarded to the four county teams that can’t compete for the county championship. The winner of Wilde Lake-Oakland Mills will face the winner of Hammond-Long Reach for bragging rights in Columbia.

The four “middle tier” teams — Atholton, Centennial, Reservoir and River Hill — will play nine county games this season instead of 11. Those two games were replaced with Anne Arundel County opponents.

Around the League

Here’s a quick look at each of the 14 local programs entering the 2018 season:

^2017 first-team All-County player; *2017 second-team All-County player

Atholton

2017 record: 5-6 county, 9-8 overall

Coach: Alex McCoy

Returning starters: N/A

Key players: Seniors Jake Peretti (attack), Paul Ciccone (attack), Jay Clute (attack), Tristan Rhodovi (midfield) and Max Xuan (midfield); juniors Keenan Long (midfield) and Jake Perret (defense); sophomores Nolan Krasnick (midfield) and Stephan Young (defense).

Centennial boys lacrosse leads wire to wire, holds off Mt. Hebron

Centennial beat Mt. Hebron, 10-9, in a Howard County boys lacrosse game on Friday, April 28.

Centennial

2017 record: 9-2, 13-3

Coach: Nick Kellinger

Returning starters: 10

Key players: Seniors Jeremy Wilson^ (attack), Jack Schlossberg* (goalie) and Thomas Thurmond* (midfield); juniors Stafford Smith (defense), Peter Krawczyk (attack) and Charlie Hockersmith (midfield); sophomores Ty Sams (midfield) and Zach Grable (defense).

Glenelg

2017 record: 5-2, 13-7

Coach: Josh Hatmaker

Returning starters: 8

Key players: Seniors Tyler Nalls* (attack), Jordan Nalls* (defense), Mason Steinberg (defense) and Johnny Chaisson (LSM); juniors Tyler Reiff^ (midfield), Michael Doughty (attack), Justin Silk (attack), Ryan Hopkins (midfield) and Eric Gruber (midfield).

Hammond

2017 record: 1-6, 4-9

Coach: Corey Zientarsky

Returning starters: N/A

Key players: Seniors Eric Kim (defense) and Nick Pekins* (midfield); junior Chase Clark (midfield).

Howard

2017 record: 5-2, 11-6

Coach: Jimmy Creighton

Returning starters: 6

Key players: Seniors Mark Bruner^ (attack), Felix Knorr^ (faceoff), Patrick Sutch (attack), Ben O’Connor (attack) and Wes Mills (LSM); junior Ben Stephanos* (defense); sophomore Jeff Bruner (midfield).

Howard boys lacrosse holds off Glenelg rally to win 8-7

Howard boys lacrosse beats Glenelg in a Howard County game on Friday, March 24 in Ellicott City, avenging its only Howard County defeat last season.

Long Reach

2017 record: 0-7, 1-11

Coach: Josh Thomas

Returning starters: 5

Key players: Senior Bruce Phipps (attack); sophomore Sam Levine (attack).

Marriotts Ridge

2017 record: 6-1, 11-6

Coach: Tony Incontrera

Returning starters: 5

Key players: Seniors Luke Ingersoll^ (midfield), Troy Hettinger (midfield), Peter Geier* (attack) and Logan Frank (attack); junior Colin Kelley^ (goalie).

Mt. Hebron

2017 record: 4-3, 7-9

Coach: Mike McCarthy

Returning starters: 8

Key players: Seniors Simon Perna (attack), Nick Nordhausen (attack), Joey Schwartz (midfield), Jamison Hulbert (midfield) and Peter Karmilowicz (defense); juniors Danny Herlihy (midfield), Brennan Olds (defense) and Cody Stockenberg (goalie); sophomores Mateo Brown (attack) and Garrett Snyder^ (midfield).

Oakland Mills

2017 record: 4-3, 9-6

Coach: Skip Darden

Returning starters: 4

Key players: Seniors Nick Miller (attack), Toby Baldwin (attack) and Billy Quesenberry (goalie); junior Daniel Massillon (LSM).

Marriotts Ridge boys lacrosse makes statement, beats Howard for first place

Marriotts Ridge boys lacrosse beat Howard, 12-8, on Friday, April 28 to take sole possession of first place in Howard County.

Reservoir

2017 record: 2-9, 4-11

Coach: Bryan Cole

Returning starters: 7

Key players: Seniors Trevor McKibbin (defense), Garrett Lyons (midfield), Max Reed (midfield), Christian Byrd (defense), Samuel Levine (attack) and Alex Ahn (attack); junior Talon Campbell (midfield).

River Hill

2017 record: 6-5, 8-8

Coach: Keith Gonsouland

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Returning starters: 9

Key players: Seniors Brendan McKenna^ (attack), Brett Shaw (midfield), Lance Mercy (defense), Shane Delore (midfield), Desharn Hebron (defense) and Brett Schwab (defense); juniors Max Freidman* (attack), Kevin Hickey (goalie) and Josh Weingrad (midfield); sophomores Christian Bond (defense) and Jack Sheppard (defense).

Wilde Lake

2017 record: 3-4, 8-5

Coach: Mychael Gaines

Returning starters: 4

Key players: Seniors Andrew Tiffey* (attack), Conor Mackey (attack), Andrew Van Tassel (attack), Saleem Jackson (defense), Kenji Tsukamoto (goalie), John Patrick Dixon (midfield), Noah Sutker (midfield) and Peter Robinson (midfield); junior Jackson Pittman (midfield).

Chapelgate Christian Academy

2017 record: 4-7 MIAA C, 6-9

Coach: Alex Bruce

Returning starters: N/A

Key players: Senior Garrett Hunt (defense); juniors Mark Rolewicz (midfield) and Matt Cavrak (attack); sophomore Dominic Parker (midfield); freshman Ethan Weisgerber (defense).

Glenelg Country School

2017 record: 3-5 MIAA B, 5-8

Coach: Kevin Boland

Returning starters: 7

Key players: Seniors Christian Krauch (defense), Cameron Martin (attack) and Mikey Welsh (attack); junior Calder VandenHeuvel (defense).

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