It was clear from the start of the game at River Hill on Wednesday that Howard boys lacrosse wasn’t ready to surrender Howard County supremacy just yet.
The two-time defending county champions and last year’s 4A/3A state champions needed to hand the Hawks their first county defeat of the season in order to keep their county-title hopes alive. And thanks to three goals from Alex Stephanos and four straight second-half goals to break a 4-4 tie, the Lions accomplished just that in an 8-6 victory.
“Anytime we play River Hill it’s a big game. We talk about these tiered systems, but they’ve been one of the top teams in the county for as long as I’ve been around,” Lions coach Jimmy Creighton said. “Them being undefeated in county, they’re the team you need to knock in order for us to be where we want to be.”
After River Hill (7-1 county, 8-3 overall) tied the game at 4 midway through the third quarter on a strike from Travis Remson, Howard (3-1, 7-4) took control of the game by maintaining possession and limiting the Hawks’ chances. Patrick Sutch and Stephanos scored late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, respectively, and sophomore Mark Bruner — younger brother of 2015 Howard County Times Player of the Year Scott Bruner — followed with back-to-back goals to solidify the result.
“I just think we were executing the game plan,” Creighton said. “We wanted to do some very specific things against their defense and wanted to possess the ball and keep it away from them. We worked on getting those short-stick matchups and attacking those matchups.”
One of the keys for River Hill is playing fast and moving the ball with pace, but the Lions defense — specifically Josh Vetter — keyed in on speedy attackman Jake Friedman and held him without a point. His brother, Max Friedman, helped out in his place by scoring three goals but it wasn’t enough to overcome the second-half penalties and missed opportunities on ground balls.
Derek Isaac, who won 16 of 18 face-offs in an 8-6 win over Mt. Hebron on April 21, was held in check by Lions sophomore Felix Knorr. Isaac won 10 of 19 draws.
“I felt like we were tight, and we were in the penalty box,” River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland said. “They scored three of their goals man-up and they won, 8-6, so do the math. To our guys’ credit, though, they battled back. I knew they had a good faceoff guy and Howard is a good team. We didn’t play well enough to win and we did not put ourselves in position to win the game.”
Howard jumped out to a 3-0 lead through the first 14 minutes of play and outshot the Hawks, 8-2, in the first quarter. River Hill responded by scoring the next three goals to tie it at 3, but Stephanos netted his second goal after a Hawks penalty before halftime to give the Lions a 4-3 lead at the break.
Creighton said it was important to start strong because his team was playing on the road against a Hawks team riding a six-game winning streak.
“Getting off to that fast start and answering that run that they had — getting that goal at the end of the half I thought was a big deal for us to get momentum going into the third quarter,” he said.
With the loss, River Hill drops to 7-1 in the league and joins Howard, Glenelg and Mt. Hebron as teams with one county defeat. The Hawks play Glenelg on Friday, while the Lions will face the Vikings on May 3.
While Creighton noted this was a big game to shake-up the county race, he knows there is still plenty of lacrosse to be played. Still, peaking by the time playoffs roll around in two weeks is the ultimately goal.
“Our goal is to keep improving and get ready for the playoffs and take it one game at a time,” he said. “This was a big one and we had a lot of time to prepare for this, but we’ll enjoy it tonight and then move on the next game.”
Howard (3-1 county, 7-4 overall) – 8, River Hill (7-1, 8-3) – 6
Goals: Ho – Alex Stephanos 3, Mark Bruner 2, Patrick Sutch 2, Tristan Kelehan; RH – Max Friedman 3, Ben Chodnicki, Travis Remson, Ryan Beitzell
Assists: Ho – Stephanos, Malik Anderson, Kelehan, Bruner, Dayton Fisher; RH – Danny Isaac 3, M. Friedman
Saves: Ho – Collin McClelland 7; RH – Spencer Gray 5, Noah Thyberg 3
Halftime: 4-3, Howard
Annapolis – 10, Marriotts Ridge (2-2, 5-6) – 8
Goals: A – Hitt 4, Morton 2, Moheirser 2, Ostrowski, Mitchell; MR – Troy Hensh 5, Peter Geier 2, Luke Ingersoll
Assists: A – Mitchell, Hitt, Ostrowski; MR – Hensh 2, Ingersoll, Bladen Miller, Troy Hettinger
Saves: A – Milbourne 9; MR – Colin Kelley 10
Halftime: 3-1, Annapolis
Chesapeake – 9, Glenelg (4-1, 4-7) – 8
Goals: C – Chase Kipke 4, Joey Soroka 3, Thomas Bullen, Sam Colebrook; G – Carson Marshall 4, Breyer Burford 2, Kevin Wynne
Assists: C – Kipke, Bullen, Dylan Wolfe, Michael Blum; G – Burford, Wynne
Saves: C – Justin Corcoran 10; G – Anthony Valenza 6
Halftime: 3-3, tie
North County – 14, Hammond (0-5, 2-7) – 2
Goals: NC – Dylan Klemkowski 5, Pat Peusch 2, Austin Evans 2, Nick Krycia 2, Chris Martel, Andrew Stillman; Ha – Justin Dickins, Stanley Springer
Assists: NC – Evans 3, Martel, Krycia, Stillman; Ha – None
Saves: NC – Kyle Clark 7, Ryan Owens 7, Tyler Bloomer 1; Ha – Dylan Sicca 14, John Tapia 2
Halftime: 5-1, North County
Reservoir (2-7, 4-8) – 13, Oakland Mills (2-3, 6-5) – 4
Goals: Re – Max Zester 5, Zach Romer 2, Logan Mitchell 2, Jessie Eckstrom, Jackson Hill, Patrick Raymond, Mike Cole; OM – Nick Miller 2, Evan Riss, Khaaliq Canada
Assists: Re – Tyler Reiff 2, Raymond; OM – Riss, Raul Argumedo
Saves: Re – Callan Weith N/A; OM – Chris McGlothan 6, Andy Osiander 6
Halftime: 7-3, Reservoir
Meade – 13, Long Reach (0-4, 0-8) – 8
Goals: LR – Jayden Kirby 5, Will Parham 2, Bryce Yelton
Glenelg Country (4-1 MIAA B, 6-5) – 15; St. John’s Catholic Prep – 7
Goals: GCS – Reid Chaconas 4, Sean Escalante 3, Mikey Welsh 3, Riley Schmidt 2, Riley Martin, Nelson Lequang, Camden Fisher; SJCP – Pittroger 3, Dowling, Bowman, French, Shanley
Assists: GCS – Escalante 2, Schmidt 2, Chaconas, Welsh, Riley Martin, Cameron Martin 2; SJCP – Dowling 2, Bowman, French
Saves: GCS – BJ Borowski 13; SJCP – Fearrow 5, Vette 5
Halftime: 8-2, GCS