After a 20-year drought, there is another unbeaten Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference champion -- top-ranked St. Paul's.
The No. 1 Crusaders, fighting off the elements and a fired-up comeback by No. 2 Boys' Latin, captured the MSA A Conference championship with a 9-8 victory over the Lakers (18-2) before 5,000 fans at UMBC.
St. Paul's finished with a 17-0 mark -- the first unbeaten A Conference champion since Calvert Hall in 1972.
Junior attackman Michael Watson took a feed from Rob Bouse and broke an 8-8 tie with 1:34 left to provide the winning margin.
"I took the pass and just headed for the crease as fast as I could," said Watson, who scored three goals and had a pair of assists to lead the Crusaders' offense. "We really wanted this to repeat as champions and to take our unbeaten season coast-to-coast."
The decisive goal came as Watson's attack mates Tim Whiteley and Bouse checked the ball away from a Boys' Latin stick on a clearing attempt. Bouse picked up the ground ball and fed
Watson perfectly to cap the perfect season.
"I'm still a little stunned," said St. Paul's coach Mitch Whiteley, who had seen his team's 8-5 lead after three quarters evaporate during a final-quarter flurry by the Lakers. Kevin Bryan's second goal of the game tied the score with 3:57 to play.
The heralded St. Paul's attack came up with the game-winner, but it was the play of goalie Tommy Keratzes and midfielder Joe Gelbard that was vital to the victory.
Keratzes finished with 12 saves, including a point-blank stop on Andy Sharretts that would have given Boys' Latin the lead in the final minutes. And Gelbard, who scored twice, sparked a strong third quarter by the Crusaders, who built an 8-4 lead midway in that period.
"All year we've said that Tommy was a great goalie," said Watson. "He picked a great day to show that he was."
The Lakers, who lost their only other game of the season (7-6) to St. Paul's, refused to wilt in the rainy conditions that plagued the second half. Coach Bob Shriver was proud of the effort. "We made a nice comeback," he said. "But we made some mistakes in the final minutes that really hurt."
After trading goals early in the first quarter St. Paul's moved ahead 4-1. Gelbard broke the 1-1 tie on an unassisted bouncer midway in the first quarter.
Watson's first goal, which came after his hard ride checked the ball from Lakers goalie Steve Bassford, went into an open goal for a 3-1 lead after one quarter.
Watson struck early in the second quarter with an inside roll to the crease and beat Bassford for a three-goal advantage.
The Lakers controlled most of the action throughout the remainder of the second quarter. An unassisted liner by Bryan and a goal by a cutting Gene Lower off a sharp feed from David Pollock cut the Crusaders' lead to 4-3 with just more than six minutes left in the half.
But the teams went scoreless for the rest of the half. Keratzes made five second-quarter saves as the Lakers outshot St. Paul's 11-4 in the quarter.
Then Gelbard opened the second half by taking the faceoff and racing in for a goal just eight seconds into the half and St. Paul's built on its lead.