As the awards were being presented to Fallston High School, the 2012 2A/1A boys’ lacrosse state champions, South Carroll’s team stood and watched.
Wearing black warmup shirts, most of the exhausted Cavaliers kept their heads up. Senior goalkeeper Taylor Schmitz stood closest to midfield and clapped for every member of the Cougars who had their name announced over the public address system at UMBC Stadium.
Despite the 14-7 loss in Tuesday’s title game, it was remarkably apparent that South Carroll’s players and coaches had nothing to hang their heads about.
“It’s something that’s never been done before at the school,” Schmitz said. “Yeah, we didn’t come out the winners, but we still left a legacy at South Carroll that people will remember.”
South Carroll lost five of its first six games and entered the playoffs with a 6-8 record. Senior midfielder Nick Chaconas said some people didn’t expect the Cavaliers (10-9) to escape their regional quarterfinal matchup against North Carroll. They did. And then took down heavily-favored Patterson Mill in the state semifinals to reach the championship for the first time in school history.
Entering Tuesday’s matchup on a pleasant evening in Catonsville, South Carroll once again was the underdog and the Cavaliers’ whimsical run through the playoffs came to an end largely thanks to Fallston’s Zack Wheeler. The senior set a 2A/1A championship game record with a 10-point night (5 goals, 5 assists). Wheeler was sensational, setting up teammates with ease, converting on his dunk opportunities near the cage and turning hustle plays into goals.
South Carroll junior Dylan McDermott scored a hat trick, while Chaconas, freshman Blake McDermott and senior Caleb Runci all recorded two points in the loss.
“For the last month of the season, I can’t ask for anything more from them. They came back and never quit,” said South Carroll coach Bill McDermott, who is 90-37 in his eight years at the school.
Up until the fourth quarter, it appeared as though South Carroll’s stout defense would hold Fallston’s offense in check down the stretch, at least relative to its output in the first five games of the playoffs. The Cougars (16-5) scored 89 goals in their first five games and finished with 103 goals in six postseason games after adding 14 on Tuesday. The Cavaliers were playing with long stick midfielder Connor Young, who was hospitalized earlier in the day, and were outscored 6-0 in the final 12 minutes.
“You could tell they had the momentum and everybody started putting their head down, which you can’t do against this level of competition,” Schmitz said.
Entering the fourth quarter trailing by one, the Cavaliers played solid defense for the first two minutes before attempting to clear. A failed clear, however, led to another opportunity for the Cougars and Kyle D’Onofrio capitalized with a goal, assisted by Wheeler. Twenty-nine seconds later, James Glezen scored to make it 10-7 and Fallston didn’t look back.
“The fourth quarter was a blur. Just one after another, it was a blur,” Fallston coach Matt Parks said.
The Cougars scored two goals 12 seconds apart in the third quarter to make it 8-6 in another instance where Fallston’s quick-strike offense did damage. The first of those goals was crippling. The Cavaliers’ defense was awarded possession after Fallston spent a long time in its offensive zone. On a restart, however, South Carroll turned the ball over with Schmitz out of position. Kyle D’Onofrio intercepted the errant pass on the near sideline and Schmitz sprinted back toward the crease. He turned in time to face forward, but was in no position to stop D’Onofrio’s shot, which sailed by for a goal. Gregory Horsham scored on the ensuing faceoff to give the Cougars a two-goal lead.
“There seemed to be one or two mental errors, and with a team like that you can’t make mistakes like that. They capitalized and opened up a little lead. It’s hard to come back when you’re trying to be patient with the ball and work our gameplan,” McDermott said.
After falling behind, 4-1, with 3:21 remaining in the second quarter, South Carroll outscored Fallston, 4-1 in to close the first half, including two goals in the final 30 seconds. Dylan McDermott and Sam Willingham scored 24 seconds apart to tie the game at 5-5. The offensive outburst seemingly came out of nowhere despite the fact that the Cavaliers possessed the ball for a majority of the second quarter.
“We felt very good about ourselves and our chances. We felt that we could come out and keep the pressure on them and maybe they’d break,” Dylan McDermott said. “I’m so proud of how everyone responded to their runs at the beginning of the game.”
2A/1A Maryland State Championship
Fallston 14, South Carroll 7
Fallston 3 2 3 6 --14
South Carroll 1 4 2 0 -- 7
South Carroll (10-9): Blake McDermott assisted by Caleb Runci (5:00, 1st), Dylan McDermott (3:04, 2nd), Jake Brown assisted by Runci (2:26, 2nd), Dylan McDermott assisted by Nick Chaconas (0:28, 2nd), Sam Willingham assisted by Blake McDermott (0:04, 2nd), Chaconas assisted by Ryan Smith (8:58, 3rd), Dylan McDermott (4:02, 3rd).
Fallston (16-5): Zack Wheeler assisted by Marc Badger (9:31, 1st), Gregory Horsham assisted by Wheeler (6:23, 1st, extra man), Jason Lawrence assisted by Kyle D’Onofrio (1:01, 1st), Wheeler (3:21, 2nd), Wheeler assisted by Lawrence (1:52, 2nd), Taylor Brown assisted by Wheeler (9:54, 3rd), Kyle D’Onofrio (6:26, 3rd), Horsham assisted by Wheeler (6:14, 3rd), Kyle D’Onofrio assisted by Wheeler (9:33, 4th), James Glezen assisted by Sam D’Onofrio (9:04, 4th), Lawrence (7:30, 4th), Wheeler assisted by Zachary Esser (7:19, 4th), Wheeler assisted by Horsham (2:32, 4th), Lawrence assisted by Wheeler (2:08, 4th).