Severna Park boys lacrosse knew Mt. Hebron was going to give it everything it had looking to avenge last season’s state title game loss.
In the latest chapter of the series Thursday night at Stevenson University, the Falcons held a one-goal lead with 30 seconds remaining. Looking to draw even, Mt. Hebron turned to junior midfielder Maverick Smith, who had already scored twice.
Goalie Ashby Shepherd stood in between the Vikings’ hopes of drawing even and the Falcons’ goal of adding to their historic run of state titles. Blocking out all the noise, Shepherd hugged the post and knocked away Smith’s shot, maintaining the one-goal lead.
“I would say it compares to nothing,” Shepherd said. “You don’t hear the crowd; you don’t see anything else. I locked eyes with him, and he was shooting high most of the game. So, all I could think was, ‘You’ve got to save this one.’ He got the last two, so I had to shut him down one last time.”
Senior defender Talan Livingston alertly rolled the ball forward to take more time off the clock. Mt. Hebron’s Rich Tangires gained possession, but his desperation shot was deflected and a sea of white jerseys swarmed Shepherd as Severna Park completed the 9-8 win in the Class 3A final.
It marks the program’s seventh consecutive state title between 3A and 4A, breaking Hereford’s state record of six straight from 2008 to 2013. It’s the Falcons’ 12th crown in program history, extending their own state record.
Then came the celebration. For veterans such as Shepherd and Livingston, it was a familar feeling. However, for others such as sophomore attackman Jack Fish and senior Alex Stroble, the victory elicited different emotions.
“For me, it was relief instantly,” Fish said after scoring a hat trick. “It just showed that all of our hard work in the offseason workouts, running sprints Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and working out in the weight room, it just all paid off.”
Behind Shepherd’s strong play in net and opportunistic offense, the Falcons (14-3) scored the game’s first three goals. Severna Park’s defense pressed the Vikings’ attackers, causing early trouble, while Fish, Jack Sullivan and John Burkhardt each scored.
However, the Vikings broke the drought in the second quarter on Keegan Ryan’s goal. After falling into an early hole, Mt. Hebron outscored Severna Park 4-2 the remainder of the first half. That momentum continued after the break, as Ryan and Cooper Stockenberg scored to give Mt. Hebron its first lead.
Soon after, the penalties began to pile up for the Vikings, and Severna Park took advantage. The Falcons scored three of their four second-half goals with a man-advantage.
“Our effort was fantastic,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike McCarthy said. “We made too many mistakes accompanied by some untimely and questionable at best officiating. We were man-down for six-and-a-half minutes, compared to one-and-a-half minutes for them. Two of our penalties were two-minute non-releasable penalties.
“Our kids kept getting behind the eight ball and down three goals with less than five minutes [to go]. We got two and then had an opportunity to get a couple shots and just couldn’t finish.”
Fish and Stroble each scored before the end of the third to give the Falcons the lead, with Stroble delivering the feed on the go-ahead goal. Fish wasn’t done, completing his hat trick early in the fourth as Severna Park once again made Mt. Hebron pay.
“We had to move the ball really fast and get them to switch sides,” Stroble said of the Falcons’ success with a man-advantage. “We shifted them and we got the looks we wanted. All I had to do was dish it off to Jack.”
Sullivan pushed Severna Park’s lead back to three with 5:50 remaining, but Mt. Hebron (13-6) wouldn’t go away without a fight. Ryan and Smith scored in the fourth quarter to bring the Vikings back within one. However, when Shepherd needed to make a save in the final game of his high school career, he delivered.
Despite roster changes and an influx of newcomers, Severna Park made it back to a familiar destination. The Falcons are soaring high above the mountain top of their classification, adding another chapter to the standard of excellence they’ve helped create.
“I look back on all these teams and this one is especially special because of how much we graduated last year,” Severna Park coach Dave Earl said. “Now, granted the defense is senior-laden — we had a lot of great leadership from them — but offensively we graduated our whole attack and basically most of our midfield. Throughout the course of the year we started to define things. Moving Jack to attack was a great move.
“We approach it the same way; every day it’s about getting better in practice. We’re not thinking ahead. Another amazing thing is we had seven freshmen make varsity this year. That’s just unprecedented. They learned a lot this year and got some playing time and valuable experience.”
SP: Jack Fish: 3; Jack Sullivan: 2; John Burkhardt: 2; Tucker Moran: 1; Alex Stroble: 1.
MH: Keegan Ryan: 4; Maverick Smith: 2; Cooper Stockenberg: 1; Kyle Ratta: 1.