BETHESDA -- After 10th-ranked Calvert Hall let Landon back into the game in a boys lacrosse season opener yesterday, Cardinals junior midfielder Greg Stark decided he had seen enough celebrating on the Bears' sideline.
Shaking his teammates from their lethargic play, Stark rallied Calvert Hall with two fourth-quarter assists -- the second setting up sophomore Stephen Prels' fourth goal at 5:45 that proved to be the game-winner.
Sophomore goalie Strider Dickson (nine saves) recorded two saves as the Cardinals held on for a 7-6 victory to stop a 35-game winning streak by the Bears, the Washington area's top-ranked team.
"Landon's a tremendous program, tremendously coached with great athletes, and I'll take a win over them whenever we can get it," Cardinals coach Mike Thomas said.
Thomas' main worry before was the Cardinals' youth -- 22 sophomores and juniors dot the roster -- but he had no idea Stark would be able to provide leadership and points (two assists, one goal) just a week after a cast was removed from his broken wrist.
"Landon was shutting off everybody on offense and making the guy with the ball dodge to see if he could beat them," Thomas said. "So we decided to go with Greg and he came through for us."
Stark said the Cardinals took nothing for granted against Landon, a school Calvert Hall had not played in more than 12 years.
"It's just that we were a little tired from the bus ride and everybody got down when they tied the game," said Stark. "I just decided to get my head into the game. My skills still aren't there, but they'll come back after a couple weeks of practice."
Thomas' Cardinals program had a lot in common with Landon. Calvert Hall, like Landon, was hit hard by graduation. Having lost eight starters off last year's No. 4-ranked team, Thomas also was faced with playing the Washington power without top-scoring attackman Auggie Black, out with a broken thumb.
Landon, which averaged 14 goals in going 18-0 last season, lost 13 seniors to graduation, seven of whom are playing Division I lacrosse. But top-scorer and senior attackman Michael Eichelberger (38 goals, 42 assists) was back. He was 64 points shy of tying Taylor Simmers' (Princeton) school record of 210.
With a mix of experience and youth, both coaches were eager to see early signs of cohesiveness from their offenses.
"The margin between the two teams is one goal," Landon coach Rob Bordley said, noting his preference to play Baltimore competition early in the season in preparation for the Interstate Athletic Conference.
"Their goalie just came up big. He had some major saves and we had two or three opportunities we just didn't capitalize on."
After allowing a Landon goal early in the second half, Calvert Hall led 5-3 after Stark scored unassisted four minutes into the third quarter.
Landon, however, seized momentum 20 seconds later when freshman defenseman Ryan Curtis, the son of former Baltimore Colts linebacker Mike Curtis, picked up a loose ball at midfield, raced past a Cardinals defenseman and scored with a shot from 35 feet away.
Landon, winners of 12 straight IAC titles, thought it took a 6-5 lead when Bears senior attackman Todd Eichelberger found senior midfielder Webb Hayes cutting across the crease. Hayes' shot appeared to cross over the chalk line for a goal, but Dickson wisely did not hesitate for a call and scooped up the ball before quickly clearing it.
In the fourth quarter, after Landon tied the game at 5-5 on an unassisted goal, Stark went to work.
Gaining possession of the ball at midfield, he weaved through the Bears' defense. When a Landon attackman finally offered Stark a challenge, he delivered a perfect feed to Prels, who scored for a 6-5 Calvert Hall lead with 7:03 remaining.
Landon answered with Eichelberger and Hayes hooking up for the duo's fourth assist-goal combination, tying the game at 6-6 with 6:16 left.
Thirty seconds later, Stark did it again, drawing the defense before finding Prels cutting in front of the crease for a turnaround score and a 7-6 lead.