Northern-Calvert coach Joe Casalino didn't have time to open his 135 text messages after the Patriots' 5-4 win over Glenelg in the 3A/2A state championship game at Stevenson University on Tuesday night, but he knew it was a flood of congratulatory notes.
Facing a Gladiators program that was making its 14th state tournament appearance — second most among boys programs in the state — and 10th trip to the title game, the new kids on the block were never fazed by the bright lights.
Northern scored four unanswered goals between the second and fourth quarters and held Glenelg without a tally for 34 minutes, 46 seconds to become the first team in the history of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference — boys or girls — to win a Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state championship.
Casalino, who grew up in Calvert County and played on the first team to play boys lacrosse in the county, said it was a unique opportunity that his team was prepared to capitalize on.
"It's an interesting situation because we've been so successful in the SMAC, a lot of your opponents have a negative perception of who you are," Casalino said. "And then you get to a situation like this and you find out that everyone is so grateful for success for our conference, helping our conference grow, trying to reach for newer heights for our conference.
"That's really satisfying to me as a coach to see the other coaches and other players, they show up at the game and take us under their wing and say we want you to be successful."
Glenelg (13-7), meanwhile, came up just short in its bid for a fourth state championship and saw its 10-game winning streak come to an end. It jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Eric Gruber and freshman Kyle Dry on its first two possessions, but after Tyler Reiff's goal with 32 seconds left in the first quarter made it 3-1, the Gladiators failed to score for nearly three full quarters.
Tyler Nalls' goal with 1:46 remaining cut the deficit to 5-4, but they couldn't manage another prolonged possession and the Patriots (18-2) rushed the field to celebrate their first-ever title.
"They're good. Offensively, they're dynamic," said Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker. "I thought we did a pretty good job on them. We got out early on them and we had a couple transition things where we blew [it] and didn't get back and allowed a late goal in the first half. We took some penalties we didn't need to take. ... We got a little careless."
The Patriots, who beat Hereford, 10-8, in a state semifinal on May 20, turned the ball over on its first five possessions, while the Gladiators took advantage of its speed and athleticism. Their first three goals were all distance shots from midfielders.
Casalino said the game plan was to push out and be aggressive against the midfield; his team just failed to do so in the early stages.
"We wanted to make contact with the midfield dodgers, and in the first quarter we weren't doing that," he said. "We kind of challenged them at the end of the first quarter to get back to the game plan, get back in their hands, make contact and force them to run through some checks."
The Patriots scored the only two goals of the second period — both from Mason Chaney — including one with .3 of a second left to tie the game at 3 headed into the break.
The defensive slugfest continued for both teams deep into the third quarter until Northern took its first lead of the game with 4:42 remaining on a low-corner shot from Colten King.
Chaney's third goal with just less than five minutes left proved to be the difference.
Despite the loss, it was a season to remember for the Gladiators. They were 3-6 after a 6-4 loss to Marriotts Ridge on April 21 but rallied to win their next 10 games and averaged 12.4 goals, while allowing 4.5, during that stretch.
"Our schedule is front-loaded and we knew that coming in. We had a very young crew and it took us some time to adjust to the speed of varsity lacrosse, especially when we're playing a lot of out-of-county games and seeing Anne Arundel County. ... It was a learning experience," Hatmaker said. "We got on a little bit of a run at the right time and I thought the younger kids with the senior leadership really grew up. That's bright for our future and I appreciate it from all our older guys."
Northern-Calvert (18-2) — 5, Glenelg (13-7) — 4
Goals: N — Mason Chaney 3, Colten King, Brandon Sulhoff; G — Eric Gruber, Kyle Dry, Tyler Reiff, Tyler Nalls
Assists: N — Matt Holland, Daniel Horak, Brandon McCutcheon; G — Michael Doughty 2
Saves: N — Darryl Walker 5; G — Brian Doughty 9