The River Hill and Glenelg boys lacrosse teams have taken different paths to the top of the county standings this season.
The Hawks, who went into the week 11-0 overall and 8-0 in the county, are explosive in transition and like to run teams into the ground. The Gladiators (7-1, 7-0) are more patient on attack and lean on a stingy defense led by senior Kyle Cottrell.
The two teams will meet at 7 p.m. on Friday at River Hill in a regular-season showdown with county title hopes on the line.
"Glenelg has a very experienced close defense that plays very well together and, on offense, they are disciplined, patient and well-coached," River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland said. "It's a contrast in styles because we like to get out and run."
Impressive wins by both teams against Mount Hebron last week - Glenelg defeated Mount Hebron, 6-5, on April 25 and River Hill knocked off the Vikings, 14-10, on Friday - set the stage for Friday's big game.
Glenelg second-year coach Josh Hatmaker said his team was overlooked by some at the start of the season. The Gladiators feature a balanced attack led by sophomore Chris Gotschall (26 goals coming into the week) and senior Greg Schwartz (24 goals), with Josh Wynne as the team's primary playmaker.
The team's defense - anchored by junior defenders Andy Curley and Nick Lawson along with Cottrell - is a definite strength, as evidenced by the just five goals allowed against Mount Hebron.
"We've been a little bit of a surprise to everybody but us," Hatmaker said. "I sat down with some of the kids before the season and a lot of their thoughts [were that] nobody was paying much attention to us. From a coach's perspective, I used that as a tool, saying 'Hey, nobody is respecting us.' "
Trailing 10-4 at the half against the Vikings (8-4, 5-2), the Hawks showed their offensive firepower and improved defense by outscoring Mount Hebron 10-0 in the second half.
Senior attacker Peter Ridge was a catalyst along with Dan Hostetler, Josh Hostetler and Justin White. Gonsouland has been equally impressed with a defense that has gelled quickly. Close defenders Eddy Roth, Chaunce Whitting and Mike Golibart have provided strong support in front of goalie J.B. Mayotte, a senior and first-year starter.
"We knew athletically we could match up very well with any team and we had high expectations going in. It was just a matter of everybody gelling and understanding what we're trying to teach them," Gonsouland said.
Eagles keep rolling
Centennial's baseball team continues to handle the mounting pressure of being undefeated and No. 1 in the metro area.
Last Friday's 4-1 victory at then-No. 15 River Hill was a prime example of how the Eagles remain loose during their unbeaten run. The win was the 17th in a row for the Eagles, and it was hard-earned.
The Hawks, who are in second place in the Howard County League at 9-4 (9-6 overall), left nine men on base over the last four innings.
"We had our chances, but just didn't get the hit. Their pitching is tough and has to get the credit," River Hill coach Rick Lloyd said.
Centennial's pitching has been consistent all season.
"We go into every game with the same attitude and take one game at a time, because we know everyone wants to beat us," said junior left-hander Alex Bechta (6-0), who got the win over River Hill after pitching into the sixth before giving way to Austin Harclerode to close it. "We're trying to not play scared to lose, but playing to win every game."
Bechta's catcher, Ryan Miller, who went 3-for-4 against the Hawks, said the Eagles have used playing with a bull's eye on their backs as motivation.
"We use that to fire us, " the left-hand hitting Miller said. "Everyone is after us. We just need them to chase us and we just keep going and going and going. There ain't no stopping us."
In River Hill's second loss to Centennial this season, the Hawks got an outstanding game from senior shortstop Austin Drewyer.
Drewyer, who had two singles and a stolen base in the loss, also sparkled in the field. Drewyer, who moved over to shortstop from second base this spring, handled five chances flawlessly and started two double plays.
Collecting 10 points in a boys lacrosse game is an impressive feat, and the Hammond Golden Bears got two such efforts last week.
Junior attacker David Griffith enjoyed the first such surge with a six-goal, four-assist effort in the Bears' 19-6 win over Howard on April 25, and then senior attackman Pat Coppinger reached 10 points with seven goals and three assists in a 13-5 win over Wilde Lake on Friday.