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Commentary: How will Howard or Severna Park win boys lacrosse state title?

Howard players, seen here raising the championship trophy as a team after their win against Churchill during the 2015 4A/3A boys lacrosse state championship at Stevenson University's Mustang Stadium last May, are looking to capture back-to-back titles.
Howard players, seen here raising the championship trophy as a team after their win against Churchill during the 2015 4A/3A boys lacrosse state championship at Stevenson University's Mustang Stadium last May, are looking to capture back-to-back titles. (File photo by Brian Krista)

With the 4A/3A state championship boys lacrosse game between Howard and Severna Park scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 25 at Stevenson University, Howard County Times boys lacrosse beat reporter Tim Schwartz and Capital Gazette sports editor Bob Hough share their reasons why their respective county's team will capture the ultimate prize.

Why will Howard win?

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While Severna Park is one of the most storied programs in the most competitive county in the state, Howard is the new kid on the block in 4A/3A. The Lions are in the state championship game for the third straight season after falling to South River in 2014 and hammering Churchill in the final a year ago to cap off an undefeated 19-0 season. While last year was expected, this squad has overachieved to a point considering the number of new pieces on offense. Nobody expected another state title run. That's what makes this team so dangerous.

Howard boys lacrosse hammers Bel Air, 14-4, in the 4A/3A state semifinals at Gaithersburg High on Saturday, May 21, 2016.

The co-county champion Lions simply have gotten better each and every game and the results back it up. Howard has won 11 of its last 12 games and since losing to the Falcons on April 19, it has scored 91 goals during its eight-game winning streak, which includes a 9-1 win over 3A/2A state finalist Mt. Hebron. The key for the Lions, though, is defense. It's been largely overlooked the last two years because of the record-setting offense that took the field in 2015 but was largely consistent – and good – all season having allowed double-digit goals just once to Severna Park. They have allowed 90 goals total in 18 games (5.6 goals per game allowed) and have done so with a core of players – specifically all-county goalie Collin McClelland – who have been in this spot before and know what it takes to win it all.

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Howard also has one of the young coaching stars in the state in Jimmy Creighton, who is 92-18 at the helm and built the program from the ground up. All he's ever done is win.

Severna Park will be favored based on its win over the Lions earlier this season, but if there is any team that knows how to peak at this time of the year and to game plan against a team it already faced, it's Howard. Expect a good one Wednesday night, folks.

-Tim Schwartz

@TimSchwartz13

Why will Severna Park win?

I think the best lacrosse in the state is played in Anne Arundel County. One of the most storied programs is Severna Park, which is third in the state with 12 region titles. The Falcons are in the state final for the 10th time—all since 1999. In a rarity for teams meeting in the final, Severna Park and Howard actually played during the regular season with the Falcons coming away with a convincing 13-5 victory over the Lions. I'm sure Howard has improved since that April 19 meeting, but I'd have a hard time believing it's an eight-goal improvement.

In the first-ever Howard County vs. Anne Arundel County lacrosse on April 6, Severna Park handed Mt. Hebron its first loss of the season, 6-4.

Severna Park had a rough start to the season with losses to Severn—an MIAA A Conference semifinalist—and Archbishop Spalding where the Falcons gave up a combined 22 goals. Since then, all the Falcons have done is run off 16 straight wins while giving up an average of a little more than four goals a game. They defeated all three Howard County teams they played—Mount Hebron, Howard and Glenelg—and had only one team get as close as three goals during the winning streak.

Severna Park is playing its best lacrosse at the right time. The Falcons have outscored their four playoff opponents by a combined 46-16 and appear to be firing on all cylinders. They're getting goals from all over the lineup, but their biggest asset has been their defense. Only three teams have scored more than five goals on the Falcons during the streak, and in at least two of those games the Falcons had big leads in the fourth quarter and removed some of their starters.

Howard is no doubt in the middle of an impressive run—playing it its third straight state final—but the Lions graduated more than 70 percent of their scoring from last year's state championship team. They're still dangerous and they have a solid defense and goaltender, so expect a good game on Wednesday night. Also expect the title to return to Anne Arundel County!

-Bob Hough

@bobhoke74

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