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Fallston boys lacrosse answers Smithsburg’s challenge in 13-8 win to claim Class 1A state crown

The lead was down to one in the third quarter of Friday’s Class 1A state title game, and the Fallston boys lacrosse team knew the minutes that followed would define its season.

The Cougars responded the way they had all year — with a confident, collective effort. First came a pivotal save from senior goalie Jack Emmett. Then a goal from freshman Chris King. Sophomore faceoff specialist Aiden Dixon, dominant throughout the playoffs, did his part with yet another faceoff win, and more goals came.

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Fallston scored five of the next six goals to fend off scrappy Smithsburg, claiming a 13-8 win at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex.

In capturing the program’s sixth state crown and first since 2016, the Cougars closed the season with eight straight wins to finish with a 10-1 mark.

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The Fallston boys lacrosse team celebrates with the championship trophy after a win over Smithsburg during the Class 1A title game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday.
The Fallston boys lacrosse team celebrates with the championship trophy after a win over Smithsburg during the Class 1A title game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

First-year coach Pat Mull was impressed — but not surprised — with what he saw from his Cougars after Smithsburg cut the lead to 7-6 with 8:16 left in the third quarter.

“We’ve been battling adversity all year with different COVID things, injuries and it’s been a ‘next-man up’ mentality,” he said. “So we’ve been through a lot and I think that had us ready for that situation and we responded really well. It kind of gave us that cushion to make everybody say, ‘We’re OK, we got this.’ So I’m really proud with how they responded.”

Dixon won 22 of 24 faceoffs Friday, giving him an astonishing 60-for-63 performance in the Cougars’ three state tournament wins. He helped spark a quick 3-0 lead, but the Washington County-based Leopards (10-2) were able to keep it close throughout.

Fallston's Peter Buckler celebrates a second-quarter goal against Smithsburg during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday.
Fallston's Peter Buckler celebrates a second-quarter goal against Smithsburg during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

When Ryan Linn and Alex Scholl scored less than a minute apart in the third quarter, Smithsburg only trailed 7-6 and had the ball. Linn, who had eight goals in the Leopards’ 10-5 semifinal win over Southern-AA on Wednesday, fired a low, hard shot that Emmett was able to turn aside.

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“I knew I needed to make a big save there and get the boys back in the game and get the crowd back on our side — we were thriving off that energy,” he said. “The guys got it done on offense as well, and a big shoutout to Aiden at the ‘X’ — winning a lot of draws to get momentum in our hands and ultimately helped us win the game.”

Fallston's Aiden Dixon, right, and Smithsburg's Mitchell Gearhart (15) battle for the opening faceoff during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday.
Fallston's Aiden Dixon, right, and Smithsburg's Mitchell Gearhart (15) battle for the opening faceoff during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

On the man advantage, the Cougars were able to restore order. King took a feed from Lucas Hurlburt and went high to beat Smithsburg freshman goalie Zach von Garrel (13 saves) to make it 8-6 with 4:09 left in the third quarter.

It would be the start of a dominant stretch that capped the team’s championship season. Dixon continued to win faceoffs while Noah Richard (two goals, two assists), Hurlburt (two goals, one assist), Richard and Quinn McLaughlin scored to build a 12-8 lead. Senior leader Peter Buckler, injured for some of the third quarter, fittingly closed out the scoring with his fifth goal of the game.

Fallston's Aiden Dixon celebrates a first-quarter goal with teammate Chris King (9) against Smithsburg during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday.
Fallston's Aiden Dixon celebrates a first-quarter goal with teammate Chris King (9) against Smithsburg during the Class 1A boys lacrosse championship game at Loyola Maryland's Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

“All year, it’s been like ‘next man up,’” Emmett said. “Every guy on this team has touched the field in the playoffs and it just shows the kids care, want to get better every day and it helps our team get better and win.”

At a loss for words, Dixon was just happy to do his part and be a part of a championship team.

“It feels awesome. We had to overcome a lot of things and we just won states and it feels really good,” he said.

Smithsburg was making its second state title game appearance — the Leopards also were runners-up in 2018 — and gave everything they had. Senior midfielder Aiden Ensor had a two-goal, three-assist performance to lead the attack with von Garrel’s fine play in goal helping the team offset all the faceoffs wins by Dixon.

Goals: F – Buckler 5, King, Dixon, Mudd, Hurlburt 2, Richard 2, McLaughlin; S – Batey 2, Ensor 2, Scholl 2, Linn 2 Assists: F – Harding, Hurlburt, Estremsky, Ricard, McLaughlin; S -- Ensor 3, Nussear 3. Saves: F – Emmett 9; S – von Garrel 13 Half: F, 6-3

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