Last year, Wilde Lake had its first winning boys lacrosse season since 1987.
Yesterday at Howard, the Wildecats picked up where they left off, winning their opener by defeating the Lions, 10-9, in a game so competitive that the largest lead was two goals.
Mike Thomas, a speedy junior midfielder, scored three goals and had two assists for Wilde Lake (1-0 overall, 1-0 league).
Wilde Lake's Justin Rice scored two goals, made two assists and won five ground balls.
Thomas scored the game-winning goal with 1:24 left to play.
"I didn't think it went in," Thomas said. "I bounced it and it hit the top post and rolled along it, then hit the side post and went in."
Thomas also made an assist on the tying goal scored by Phil Valle with 3:24 left to play.
On its final possession, Wilde Lake gave the ball to Thomas, who used his speed to run out the clock.
Wilde Lake's defense overcame a 9-7 deficit after three quarters by shutting out Howard (0-2, 0-1) in the fourth. Wilde Lake outscored Howard 3-0 in that stretch, with all three goals coming in the final five minutes.
Wilde Lake goalkeeper Ryan Parham finished with nine saves.
"Howard played a great game and almost beat us," Thomas said. "We were down by two goals twice and had to fight to win it. I think Howard's going to do a lot of good things this year."
Each team took 11 shots in the first half, but Wilde Lake outshot the Lions 15-5 in the second half. Howard goalkeeper Patrick Murray made seven saves in the second half and 12 for the game.
"Patrick had a good game, but we made too many mental mistakes and ground balls are hurting us right now," said Howard coach Wendell Thomas. "Our defense cleared well."
Said Murray: "They just seemed to be more motivated at the end of the game than we did."
This was Howard's second straight loss after dropping a 12-5 decision to South Carroll on Monday night.
Jim Dress had four assists for the Lions, and teammate Philip Thomas scored one goal and had three assists. Mike Moss and Dan Lavin each scored two goals.
"This was a heck of a team effort," said third-year Wildecats coach Todd Thelen. "Mike [Thomas] is a good heads-up ballplayer. He found a seam and beat the zone defense to win it. These were two solid teams, one of them coached by one of the best [Wendell Thomas]. It's always a challenge going up against one of his teams. It was tough because we had just one scrimmage."