Glenelg senior Breyer Burford knew what was at stake when he prepared to take the shot of his career in double overtime.
Facing two-time defending county champions Howard is always the biggest game of the season, but this time it was also the first on the schedule. It also came down to which team would find the back of the net first in the extra time.
"We all treated this game like it was the state championship," Burford said. "This game means more to all of us than anybody knows. I don't really know what to say."
In the end, Burford played the role of the Gladiators' hero. He went to set a pick for sophomore Chase Collier in the middle of the field and then found himself open, and he knew exactly what he wanted to do – score.
He collected the pass and ripped it to the upper right corner of the goal past Lions goalie Collin McClelland with 48 seconds left on the clock in the second overtime to lift the Gladiators past visiting Howard, 7-6. It's the Lions' first county defeat since 2013 and ends a 19-game winning streak.
"We knew that they were good. We didn't hide anything from the kids," said Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker. "It means a lot. They were freshman when we were winning county championships, and a lot of these guys played on those teams. To lose the county championship to Howard the last few years, it means a lot to these guys to get control back. It's something we've focused on in our preseason stuff for a long time.
"We had talked in film about finding that window on the backside, and Burford popped and did exactly what he was taught to do. He finished it like Burford finishes."
It took some much-needed luck in order for the game to be decided by a golden goal. Howard led, 6-5, with less than a minute left when McClelland stopped a Gladiators shot and held the ball. He left the crease looking for a clear but found himself surrounded by defenders and ultimately lost possession. Senior Jeremy Rigali picked up the loose ball and lobbed it into the open net to tie the game at 6-6 with 49 seconds remaining.
"I thought (McClelland) thought he was going to get a push," Hatmaker said. "Our kids ride hard, and Jeremy just happened to pick the ball up, and I'm sitting there thinking, 'Did he really just lob that ball into the goal?' They rode hard and got possession back, and that's a testament to those guys. ... They did everything we asked of them today."
Lions coach Jimmy Creighton said the deciding factor in the game was simply that the Gladiators took better advantage of the chances they had.
"It was a great opportunity for both teams to show what they're made of, and in the end they just made more plays than we did," he said. "I honestly just think they capitalized on some mistakes on our part, and they finished a couple more shots than we did. I thought (Glenelg) did a really nice job on groundballs, especially on the faceoff, which gave them those added possessions, especially in the second half."
The Lions started the game strong by taking advantage of the speed and quickness of senior attackman Malik Anderson. He scored unassisted a little more than three minutes into the contest, and then found the goal again, also unassisted, six minutes later to give his team a 2-0 lead entering the second quarter.
The Gladiators changed the pace in the second stanza and came out firing on all cylinders offensively, while the defense worked to keep Anderson in check. Senior Kevin Wynne, who transferred back to Glenelg after spending a year at St. Paul's, ignited the Gladiators offense when he found senior Carson Marshall, who buried a shot to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Howard was called for a penalty on the goal, which ultimately cost itself another Gladiators goal. This time it was Brett Wasson assisting Wynne, who tied the game at 2-2 with 5:55 remaining in the half.
Wynne was the catalyst of the offense, but his teammates and coaches point to his mentality as his biggest attribute. He also gave a fiery speech to the team before the game.
"Kevin is an emotional guy and he jumped right in there, and that's perfect," Hatmaker said. "He sees the bigger picture, and I can tell you right now he's going through in his head the things we did wrong and the things we need to correct just like us coaches. He's a versatile leader and he's a hell of a lacrosse player. It's nice to have him back."
The Lions responded as any defending state champion would. Alex Stephanos assisted Nathan Handwerk with 4:50 left in the half to give his team the lead back at 3-2, and then Stephanos scored on a feed by Michael Travisano 10 seconds before the halftime buzzer to make it 4-2 Howard heading into the half.
"In the first half we just shot ourselves in the foot clearing the ball," Hatmaker said. "We probably gave away like five clears and that's something we work on constantly."
Glenelg, though, buckled down in the third quarter and did it in a hurry. Collier rifled one into the goal 33 seconds into the second half cut the Lions' lead to one, and Wasson tied the game at 4 on the extra man offense with 6:08 left in the quarter.
The Gladiators kept the momentum into the final quarter and took their first lead of the game on an unassisted goal by Burford. Howard continued the back and forth affair and tied the contest 34 seconds later when Anderson completed a hat trick on his third unassisted goal of the night, and Tristan Kelehan put the Lions back on top at 6-5 when his bounce shot beat Glenelg goalie Anthony Valenza with 1:56 remaining.
"We were confident, but we knew it wasn't going to be easy," Burford said. "We have pretty deep players at all positions this year, and today we showed it and it worked out well."
Glenelg doesn't play again until it hosts a tournament on April 2, while Howard hosts their own tournament, which features South Carroll, Patterson Mill and Leonardtown, on March 26. Creighton knows his team needs to put this game behind them in a hurry.
"It's on to the next one. That's how it's always been with us. We're back to the drawing board tomorrow at practice," he said. "We've got our tournament coming up and hopefully we can get some good performances out of our guys there."
Glenelg (1-0) 7, Howard (0-1) 6 (2OT)
Goals: G – Breyer Burford 2, Chase Collier, Kevin Wynne, Jeremy Rigali, Carson Marshall, Brett Wasson; Ho – Malik Anderson 3, Alex Stephanos, Tristan Kelehan, Nathan Handwerk
Assists: G – Burford, Collier, Wynne, Wasson; Ho – Stephanos, Travisano
Saves: G – Anthony Valenza 7; Ho – Collin McClelland 8
Halftime: 4-2, Howard
Atholton (1-0, 1-0) 14, Oakland Mills (0-1, 0-1) 5
Goals: A – Talbott Gottwals 4, Rick Mooney 2, Joey Brewer 2, Jake Peretti 2, Keenan Long 2, Max Bryant, Caldwell Bibbs; OM – Evan Riss 4, Jack Schurman
Assists: A – Gottwals 2, Peretti 2, Bryant 2, Brewer, Mooney; OM – Kevin Paez, Nick Miller
Saves: A – Darren Kasoff 7; OM – Andrew Oslander 7, Chris McGlothan 2
Halftime: 4-2, Atholton
River Hill (1-0, 1-0) 11, Reservoir (0-1, 0-1) 3
Goals: RH – Jake Freidman 4, Brendan McKenna 2, Danny Isaac 2, Kelly Remson, Tommy Barrett, Chodnicki; Re – Tyler Reiff 2, Logan Mitchell
Assists: RH – N/A; Re – None
Saves: RH – N/A; Re – Callan Weith 10
Halftime: 5-3, River Hill
Centennial (1-0, 1-0) 15, Hammond (0-1, 0-1) 4
Goals: C – Jeremy Wilson 4, Tommy Kolp 4, Mike Moore 3, Jaylen DeCarlo 2, Michael Pellegrini 2; Ha – N/A
Assists: C – J. Wilson 3, Moore 2, Kolp 2, DeCarlo; Ha – N/A
Saves: C – Jason Simpson 6; Ha – N/A
John Carroll 14, Marriotts Ridge (0-1) 6
Goals: JC – Bowling 4, Ensor 3, Krieger 2, Brown, Pholsky, Rosachi, Lowery, Leonard; MR – Logan Frank 2, Lewy Anania 2, Peter Geier, Jake Polinsky
Assists: JC – Brown; MR – Anania, Reed Kenny
Saves: JC – Laponzina 6; MR – Chris Simpson 6
Wilde Lake (1-0) 17, Edgewood 1
Goals: WL – Ryan Tiffey 5, Patrick Riley 5, Ryan Allison 3, Andrew Tiffey, Ben Briguglio, Austin Magez, Jarrett Scott
Assists: WL – R. Tiffey 5, A. Tiffey 4, Riley 2, Robert White
Saves: WL – Daniel Joseph 7, Kenji Tsukomoto 2
Mt. Hebron (1-0) 11, Friends 6
Goals: MH – Dillon Scheeler 3, Jake Edmondson 2, Kyle Watts 2, Simon Perna, Chris Munko, Kyle Sutton, Tyler Holtzman
Assists: MH – Edmondson 2, Bryce Brookhart, Holzman, Scheeler
Saves: MH – Casey Dubois 11