River Hill was expected to have one of the county’s best offenses this season, as it was the only team to return two All-County attackman in senior Brendan McKenna and junior Max Friedman. But everything changed when Friedman, who had 30 goals and 10 assists, last spring, suffered a torn ACL in his knee in the preseason.
“We had a vision for the team of what we wanted before the season and then Max goes down with an ACL, and it was really like, screech,” said Hawks coach Keith Gonsouland. “And then we played two games without Brendan [to start the season], and it was just, like, trying to batten down the hatches and find a way to win games and get in a rhythm.”
River Hill scored a total of 10 goals in those first two games — both defeats — but once McKenna rejoined the team, the Hawks won five of their next six games and scored double-digit goals in four of them. Still, they weren’t quite the team they expected to be.
Friedman’s absence wasn’t noticeable during Wednesday’s home game against Centennial, however. River Hill put together one of its most complete games since its state championship run in 2015 and shocked the Eagles, 10-6, behind a six-goal performance from McKenna.
“This is the first time we’ve played four quarters of lacrosse,” Gonsouland said. “We’ve been talking about trying to put four quarters of lacrosse together and play our best in May. I just feel like the team is starting to come together.”
River Hill (5-2 Howard County, 7-5 overall) held a 3-2 lead after one quarter when McKenna found his groove. He scored two goals 20 seconds apart and three in the span of 4 minutes, 7 seconds, and the Hawks took a 6-4 lead into halftime and never slowed down from there. Tyler Hopkins’ goal 31 seconds into the second half made it 7-4, and McKenna scored their next three goals between the third and fourth quarters. McKenna now has 56 points and a county-best 40 goals.
But it wasn’t just McKenna and the offense. Sophomore Jack Sheppard is the first defender all season to hold in check All-County attackman and Player of the Year candidate Jeremy Wilson, who led the county in points last spring and is doing so again this year for Centennial. Wilson had registered four points in every game and had 57 points entering Wednesday, but Sheppard and the Hawks defense held Wilson to a season-low one point — a second-quarter goal.
Junior goalie Kevin Hickey excelled in the fourth quarter when the Eagles were pressing and finished with five saves in the final frame and 12 overall. And Gonsouland credited his midfielders and their ability to dominate the groundball battle and clear the ball.
“We played great team defense and we picked up groundballs the first time,” Gonsouland. “We’ve been playing good team defense, we just haven’t picked up the ball and cleared it and we’ve given teams more opportunities, and we stayed out of the penalty box. ... We played a whole, complete game and I think the guys are learning what it takes to win and starting to believe it.”
The Eagles (4-2, 7-3), meanwhile, lost their second straight game against county competition after starting the season 4-0 in the league and 7-1 overall. It’s the second consecutive game they have set a new season low in goals scored after averaging more than 15 in their first eight games.
“I didn’t know we were capable of playing that poorly,” Centennial coach Nick Kellinger said. “From every phase of the game, River Hill outplayed us. From the very first whistle until the very last, River Hill was just way better than us today.”
River Hill (5-2 county, 7-5 overall) — 10, Centennial (4-2, 7-3) — 6
Goals: RH — Brendan McKenna 6, Shane DeLore, Ryan Henry, Josh Weingrad, Tyler Hopkins; C — Charlie Hockersmith 2, Thomas Thurmond, Peter Krawcyzk, Ty Sams, Jeremy Wilson
Goals: RH — McKenna, Hopkins; C — Michael Pellegrini, Sams
Saves: RH — Kevin Hickey 12; C — Jack Schlossberg 8
Halftime: 6-4, River Hill
Marriotts Ridge (3-2, 10-2) — 14, Atholton (3-4, 4-6) — 5
Goals: MR — Ellis Gloyd 3, Peter Geier 3, Troy Hettinger 2, Brett Gladstone 2, Charlie Reynolds 2, Luke Ingersoll, Andrew Luciano; A — Jake Peretti, Tristan Rhodovi, Brian Tarantino, Keenan Long, Justin Ahmuty
Assists: MR — Ingersoll 3, Gladstone, Geier, Jake Levey; A — Peretti, Jay Clute
Saves: MR — Colin Kelley 6, Mitch Evans 3, Matt Cimerola 3; A — Ben Dotson 14
Halftime: 8-2, Marriotts Ridge
Glenelg (5-0, 9-1) — 12, Urbana — 6
Goals: G — Tyler Nalls 2, Ryan Hopkins 2, Tyler Reiff 2, Eric Gruber 2, Kyle Dry 2, Michael Doughty, Johnny Chaisson
Goals: G — Doughty 4, Hopkins 2, Justin Silk
Saves: G — Robbie Noyes 9
Halftime: 7-3, Glenelg
Wilde Lake (1-3, 3-5) — 14, Glen Burnie — 5
Goals: WL — Andrew Tiffey 5, Jonathan Fontana 3, Jackson Pittman 2, Andrew Van Tassel 2, Peter Robinson, Connor Mackey
Goals: WL — Tiffey 5, Pittman 2, Mackey, Fontana, Robinson, Noah Sutker
Halftime: 6-2, Wilde Lake
North County — 15, Long Reach (0-3, 3-5) — 1
Goals: LR — Sam Levine
Goals: LR — Bruce Phipps
Hammond (0-3, 2-7) — 10, Meade — 3