COLLEGE PARK - Recent weather problems have prompted Boys' Latin lacrosse coach Bob Shriver to jokingly call this the "spring of having to handle things." The Lakers had another unusual thing to handle yesterday - a 10 a.m. game start.
Top-ranked Boys' Latin took awhile to awaken, struggling throughout the first quarter. But a three-minute illegal stick penalty against No. 5 St. Mary's helped the Lakers to a five-goal second period, and they rolled to a 9-7 victory over the Saints in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference opener for both teams.
The game was scheduled for Friday at St. Mary's, but poor field conditions forced it to be moved to the University of Maryland's Artificial Turf Facility. The unusually early start seemed to affect both teams at times in a first quarter as neither played consistently.
"We had a rough start," said Boys' Latin's Ryan Walterhoefer, who finished with two goals. "It seemed like we were still asleep. But [the penalty] got our momentum going."
St. Mary's (0-2 overall, 0-1 league) held a 2-1 lead after the first quarter. But defending champion Boys' Latin (4-0, 1-0) took over when St. Mary's was hit with the three-minute non-releasable illegal stick penalty at the start of the second period. Drew Peace (two goals, one assist) quickly tied it 41 seconds in before Chris Read (one goal, one assist) gave the Lakers the lead for good with another extra-man goal with 10:01 left in the quarter.
Two more quick goals midway through the quarter gave the Lakers command. Chris Boland (two goals) used a slick move from behind the cage to give the Lakers a 4-2 edge with 6:20 left in the half. Greg Baggan (two goals, one assist) scored the third extra-man goal of the period 28 seconds later to make it 5-2.
"We got a big break with their stick penalty," Shriver said. "That was a big break, no question about it."
The defending A Conference champion took charge in many ways after the first quarter.
Alex Smith played a big role in Boys' Latin winning a total of 12 of 16 faceoffs and eventually controlling the ball for long stretches. The Lakers also won 20 of 34 ground balls, and their speed advantage showed often on the AstroTurf field.
Boys' Latin often dictated and controlled the tempo after the first period, pushing the Saints back on their heels numerous times and simply making them play defense too often.
"You can't play as much defense as we did in the first half," St. Mary's coach Matt Hogan said.
But the Lakers still needed their own good defense as Nick Bonacci (four goals) wouldn't let the Saints go away quietly.
Bonacci intercepted a clear from Boys' Latin goalie Trey Sheain and scored on a breakaway in the second period and added two more goals in the second half as the Saints cut the lead to 8-6 and later 9-7. But Sheain bounced back by making five of his 14 saves in the fourth quarter as the Saints pressured throughout the period.
"We made a lot of mistakes early," Hogan said. "We can't afford to give a well-coached, well-skilled team 24 minutes of a head start."