OWINGS MILLS, Md.— Churchill wanted redemption. Severna Park wanted history.
Something had to give, and on Wednesday night at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium, the Falcons stamped their names in the record books once again.
Mikey Harmeyer’s overtime goal was the championship game-winner as the Severna Park boys lacrosse team completed its season in thrilling fashion yet again, defeating Winston Churchill High School 8-7 to win the 4A state championship.
The victory completed a 16-2 season for the Falcons, sealed the program’s third consecutive state crown and eighth all-time, and for the second straight season Severna Park was the final 4A team standing on a can-you-believe-it game-winner over Churchill.
“It’s crazy. I can’t even put it into words right now,” said Harmeyer. “I’m just excited for my boys, and it was just awesome, just a great win.”
A year after completing a comeback win over the Bulldogs to win the 2017 state title game in similarly dramatic fashion on Jack Thomas’ last-second goal, the Falcons defended their place atop Maryland on Wednesday with another hard-fought, come-from-behind win.
“It’s hard to put into words, just the character of these guys to fight back the way they did,” said Severna Park head coach Dave Earl. “They’ve done it all year.”
No one was expecting this year’s final to be one-sided, even when Severna Park came out hot. After a clean save by goalie Shane Carr on Churchill’s opening possession, he fired a quick outlet to Josh Coffman, who blazed down the field and found Harmeyer for a goal and a quick 1-0 lead. Carr finished the game with 10 saves and came up huge time and again throughout the night for the Falcons.
Chase Cope notched an unassisted score to make it 2-0, and Harmeyer was in the right place on the edge of the crease to scoop up a rebound after Churchill goalie Andrew Robinson saved a Coffman crank. Harmeyer stuffed it for a 3-0 Falcons lead late in the first quarter, and Severna Park was on fire to start.
Churchill responded admirably. They took advantage of man-up situations to get scores by Ryan Shure (assist Brady Altobello) and Altobello (assist Ryan Leonard) before two straight goals by Altobello and one by Avery Slomnicki.
The Churchill defense shut out Severna Park in the second period, jamming up passing lanes and cluttering up the middle of the field, and the Bulldogs led 5-3 after two quarters. Churchill’s redemption story was half written.
It was an uncomfortable amount of time for Falcon fans before Severna Park drew level. Hans Hansen scored, but Altobello answered to keep Churchill’s lead at 6-4. Dean Draughn scored unassisted, and after the face-off was won by Churchill, Carr made a huge save to halt a Bulldog possession.
Back at the other end, Thomas cranked a long-distance shot from the point, assist Hansen, on a man-up play just before the end of the quarter to even it at 6-6.
Leonard opened the fourth with a quick score to give the lead back to Churchill at 7-6, but Severna Park’s defense clamped down again and got the ball back, setting up another Cope score off an assist by Coffman with 3:09 to play that tied the game at 7-7.
Churchill sophomore Merrick Willeford won the ensuing faceoff—he won 11 of 18 squaring off mostly with Severna Park freshman Colin Shadowens and once against Falcon long pole Niles Tinsley—and the Bulldogs had a long offensive set and four decent looks on goal, though all from distance, in the final three minutes of play. Three of the shots were just high or wide, and Carr got the shaft of his stick on another to deflect it off the frame of the goal. Churchill was trying to work it around to keep possession and get the final shot, but Carr intercepted a pass across the crease intended for a cutter, and Severna Park had the ball with 54 seconds left.
After a timeout, the Falcons worked the ball without getting any great looks. Coffman received a crushing check in the back with two seconds left, giving Severna Park an extra-man opportunity that carried over into overtime.
One possession was all Severna Park needed. After a couple of misfires killed off the penalty, Harmeyer got the ball while subbing in from the box. He initially took a tough angle towards the outside but cut back inside a few yards off the crease, swung his hands across the face of the goal and finished low to Robinson’s left.
A sudden-victory game-winner to win a state championship. The goal of a lacrosse lifetime.
“It felt amazing,” said Harmeyer. “I was subbing in through the box and I had a shorty on me, so I knew I could take my chance to go to the net. I just got an extra step on my man and felt like I had an opening, and I just stuck it, just finished it.”
Earl noted the play of the defense, which allowed only two goals in the second half against Churchill and all season had to adapt to changing personnel combinations while navigating injuries. Long poles Tinsley, Ben Morgan, Matt Alton, Trent Bellotte and Mark Bredeck all saw time on Wednesday; Bredeck returned just last Friday from a broken jaw suffered back in March. With senior middies Drew Betch, Draughn, Cope and Coffman likewise playing huge minutes on defense, the Falcons allowed only two second-half goals to keep the game within reach.
“We have a very inexperienced defense, graduating basically our four starting poles from last year,” said Earl. “For them to achieve this is really something special. I’m proud and honored to have the opportunity to coach these guys.”
Draughn said the Falcons’ preparation was impeccable.
“As a program, I think our coaching staff prepared us in every aspect of the game,” said Draughn. “I don’t think any of us had any nerves coming in. Film, everything, they studied hours. Coach Earl doesn’t sleep. They knew exactly what we were going to see, and we executed.”
Earl noted the significance of playing for pride in Severna Park’s increasingly rich tradition of excellence.
“They’re proud to represent Severna Park and the community,” Earl said. “We talk a lot about playing for everyone who ever wore the Severna Park jersey. Those guys did that today.”
Carr is part of a senior class that has helped Severna Park to a 52-4 record since the start of the 2016 season with state titles in 2016, 2017 and this year. He said the team maintains a central focus on its goals, the players hold themselves and each other accountable, and the program is built to contend year-in and year-out.
“The personnel might change next year, but the goals and attitudes stay the same,” said Carr. “All our principles that we have coming into the season are exactly the same. Every year we stick to that, and every year it’s the same goal no matter who’s on the field or what team we’re facing. We graduated a lot of kids, so for these young kids to come up, they knew what needed to be done. The character, the attitude, we are just a family, and when one person leaves, another steps up, takes their place and gets the job done.”
The 2018 state champion Severna Park boys lacrosse players are Drew Betch, Connor Panebianco, Brady Wachs, Hans Hansen, Bobby Ruppert, Chase Cope, Michael Harmeyer, Dominic Cipriano, Elliott Skopp, Colin Taylor, Dean Draughn, Grayson Gallagher, Matthew Alton, Colin Shadowens, Max Dunoyer, Will Bray, Casey Fox, Jack Thomas, Shane Carr, Kyle Griffith, Jimmy Mhaer, Austin Persico, Jacob DeLare, Gavin Mullervy, Alex Miller, Cameron Bear, Rory Sullivan, Robby Kershaw, Cameron Caouette, Ben Morgan, Wils Wood, Michael Maorreale, Kurt Klaus, Jacob Cooley, Joseph Kilpatrick, Chris Savani, Patrick Roth, Mark Bredeck, Trent Bellotte, Dawson Duckworth, Josh Coffman and Niles Tinsely. They are coached by Dave Earl and assistants Jake Derlink, Wilton Downs, John McNulla, Walter Dearborn and Cody Hornung.
Mikey Harmeyer scores the overtime game winner and Severna Park defeats Winston Churchill 8-7 to win the 4A state championship.— SP Voice Sports (@SPVoiceSports) May 24, 2018