The Mervo boys lacrosse team has an unfamiliar role this season as the defending Baltimore City Division A champions.
So far, the Mustangs have looked plenty comfortable.
The biggest proof to date came Tuesday when they hosted City in a rematch of last year's title game.
Mervo got a two-goal, three-assist performance from freshman Tayquan Busby, played flawlessly in man-down situations and controlled the fourth quarter to pull out a 7-5 win over the Knights.
The Mustangs improved to 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the city's A Division, while City (5-3) fell to 4-1 in league play.
"Coach [Martin Church] told us what he needed and we went out there and executed," Busby said. "He told us to minimize mistakes and optimize our opportunities, and we did that. We wanted this game to stay undefeated in the conference."
The Mustangs enjoyed three precise minutes of attack early in the second quarter — scoring three goals in the stretch — to take a 4-2 lead they would never relinquish.
Busby provided the team's first lead at 3-2 when he was able to shake a defender and go high with a shot for his second goal with 7:07 to play in the half. Less than a minute later, he connected with senior Charles Pitt, who made it 4-2.
When City freshman D'Andre Chaney scored two consecutive goals in a one-minute stretch during the third quarter, the Mervo lead was cut to 5-4 with 4:37 left in the period.
But the Mustangs defense, which killed off six penalties, dug in, and fourth-quarter goals from Ramone Alleyne and Isaiah Crenshaw pushed the lead to 7-4 with 6:28 left before the Knights scored in the final seconds.
Last season, Mervo beat City, 10-7, to win its first Baltimore City championship since 2004. It ended the Knights' run of two straight titles in addition to a 28-game winning streak in league play.
On Tuesday, the Mustangs ended another run against the Knights, beating them in the regular season for the first time in seven years.
"Mervo is a tough team. They kept coming, they kept fighting and they deserved to win," City coach Anthony "Merc" Ryan said. "We did as well as we could and I'm fine with [the effort]. Mervo just played a great game — they ran hard and hustled the entire game and deserved it."
Goals: C — Chaney 2, Hamm, James, Smith; M — Busby 2, Alleyne 2, Pitt, Brown, Crenshaw. Assists: C — James 2, Allison; M — Busby 3, Pitt. Saves: C — Welch 5; M — Abdul-Ghani 7 Half: M, 4-2