With his team huddled around him, Northwest High School boys' lacrosse coach Dave Hafer held the game ball in his right hand. He held it high above the attentive Jaguars, verbally debating who would receive the grass-stained orb.
After a few more seconds of deliberation, he tossed the ball to senior Jarrett Jefferson.
The lanky attack smiled and bowed his head. His first goal of the season in Northwest's 14-4 blowout of John F. Kennedy on Thursday night went well-rewarded.
It wasn't, however, what you'd call a textbook tally.
Jefferson scooped up a ground ball off a faceoff in the third quarter and sprinted downfield. Only one small problem: he was running the wrong way. His teammates (and the fans) alerted him regarding his misdirection and he turned around and began running toward the attacking zone. When he got there, he kept running. Right through the defense. Jefferson pulled up roughly 10 yards from the goal and fired a bounce shot past Kennedy goalkeeper Will Vargas to make it 10-3.
“I was going in for the ground ball and I kind of just didn't know which way I was going,” Jefferson said. “My defender told me which way to go. The defense starting cutting in a little bit, but I just ran past them and took the shot.”
After Jefferson received the game ball, one of Northwest's assistant coaches shouted to him.
“How many times have I told you?” he said. “You can do it. I've seen you do it. You just need to have confidence that you can do it.”
Jefferson's memorable strike was one of 14 goals for the Jaguars (9-4) on the night, who received a four-goal, two-assist outing from junior attack Simon Michnick and a four-goal effort from junior midfielder J.D. Baker.
“It wasn't our best effort, but Kennedy got a lot better. On our behalf, we came off of the two biggest victories in school history,” said Hafer, in his second season as Northwest's coach.
Those two aforementioned victories were against Richard Montgomery and Watkins Mill. The Jaguars won five games last season and have assured themselves of the best record in school history. Northwest has won five in a row after losing three straight.
Kennedy's goalkeeper Vargas finished the game with 18 saves, as Northwest peppered the keeper with shots all night. The Jaguars finished with 27 shots on goal and scored six times in the third quarter after a slow start.
“They're still learning how to handle games like this. They think they can just show up and win, but that's not the case,” Hafer said. “If they want it bad, it's going to be a tough go, and that's what happened. Eventually it kicked in.”
Northwest goalkeeper Nate Jensen, who relieved starter Tommy Beard in the fourth quarter, made four saves on five shots on goal in the fourth against a Cavaliers (1-10) offense that found its stride late in the game. The pair of Northwest goalkeepers combined for eight saves on the cool spring evening.
By that time, however, it was too late as Baker and Michnick had done their damage on Kennedy's senior night.
“I got stuffed a couple times, unfortunately, but converted some shots when the ball was on the ground,” Baker said.
In the second quarter, the Jaguars outshot the Cavaliers, 16-5, but the teams managed one goal apiece. Vargas was outstanding in that quarter, making eight saves, a number on shots from inside 10 yards.
Both teams have one game remaining on the regular-season schedule before the playoffs begin.
Said Baker, simply: “We're happy we're going to the playoffs.”
Northwest 14, Kennedy 4
Northwest 4 1 6 3 -- 14
Kennedy 1 1 1 1 -- 4
Northwest (9-4): J.D. Baker (9:10, 1st), Craig Thompson assisted by Simon Michnick (5:13, 1st), Michnick (3:47, 1st), Baker (2:54, 1st), Jamie Hanson (4:27, 2nd), Baker (11:35, 3rd), Baker (9:53, 3rd), Michnick assisted by Hanson (8:00, 3rd), Michnick (6:23, 3rd), Jarrett Jefferson (6:08, 3rd), Mark Wiley assisted by Michnick (3:56, 3rd), Hunter Thompson (5:34, 4th), Michnick (3:23, 4th), Zach Notari (1:46, 4th)
Kennedy (1-10): Jack Zuckerburg (10:52, 1st), Obie Casel (5:42, 2nd), Jared Coleman (8:15, 3rd), Casel (4:30, 4th).