Throughout Saturday’s Class 2A boys lacrosse championship game between Hereford and Kent Island, space was at a premium, with both teams’ defenses standing their ground.
In the final minute, Bulls senior midfielder Owen Cogan — in a familiar position with the potential game-winning goal in his stick — found just enough room.
Heading to the right side of the net, he got a jump on his defender to get off a clean shot that bounced in, giving Hereford a 5-4 win at Loyola Maryland’s Ridley Athletic Complex.
It’s the 10th state championship for the Bulls — the last coming in 2013 — and the second straight game-winning goal for Cogan, who dispatched Glenelg, 13-12, in Wednesday’s semifinal round. Hereford finished with an 8-2 mark, while Kent Island lost for the first time this season to finish 10-1.
For Cogan, there could not have been a better ending to his high school career.
“I had one step on him and I just knew I had the goal. I had my shoulder right above him and I just ripped it,” he said. “It was so amazing. I knew it was open, so I just took the shot and then after it was just surreal with the crowd and the teammates.”
The Bulls defense, which blanked the Buccaneers in the first half to help claim a 2-0 halftime lead, still had some work to do. But they were more than up to the challenge, with Nathan Van Note getting a takeaway with 44 seconds left to give the Bulls possession.
Hereford coach Kyle Leppert was quick to credit his team’s versatility on defense. In the semifinal win at Glenelg, the Bulls mostly played zone. But they started out in man coverage Saturday and proved up to the task. Defensemen Austin Clarke, Gino Pisano, Braun Lippe and Ryan Woods carried most of the load, with goalie Logan Bush coming up with four saves.
“We came in thinking we were going to have to play zone, but our defenders really stepped up and gave it their all,” Bush said. “They did a great job staying on their man and all the shots that came at me were very easy to save, and overall I’m really proud.”
Both Bush and Kent Island goalie Kasey Heath were particularly strong in the first half while the offenses were getting settled on the big stage.
The game was scoreless after the first quarter before the Bulls got goals from Chase Gibbons with 9:48 to play in second quarter and Logan Sinsebox with 15 seconds left for a 2-0 halftime lead.
When Trey Gibbons put home a feed from Connor Kyger with 7:24 to play in the game, the Bulls had a 4-2 advantage that seemed comfortable.
But the Buccaneers, who edged Parkside, 5-4, in Wednesday’s semifinal, got on track with consecutive goals from Jack Mulligan and Michael Ruffennach to draw even for the first time since the start with 4:50 to go.
The Bulls gained possession and were methodical and scrappy with the ball, picking up two ground balls and sending two shots wide before Cogan started his drive to goal with a little more than one minute left.
“It’s been amazing — the comeback against Glenelg and then this close game,” Cogan said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Mulligan led Kent Island with two goals, while Heath made eight stops. Despite the setback, coach Robert Woolley was pleased with the team’s resiliency.
“The season itself, as crazy as it was, we made the best of it. Our guys came to practice every day ready to get better,” he said. “So that’s all you can really ask for, especially when things aren’t really the norm. We just figured out a way and that’s what I’m so proud of with these guys. We found a way to get here with a couple gritty wins.”
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Goals: H – T. Gibbons, C. Gibbons, Bowen, Sinsebox, Cogan; KI – Mulligan 2, Smith, Ruffennach, Assists: H – T. Gibbons, Kyger; KI – K. Heath 8 Saves: H – Bush 4; KI – Heath 8 Half: H, 2-0