Howard High School's boys lacrosse team continued on the road to itsfinest season ever with a 15-6 destruction at Glenelg on Monday, butthe Lions kept their postgame high-fives and backslaps to a noticeable minimum.
The Lions (11-0) also kept their perfect season going,but that doesn't matter much today to Howard coach Dan Ross or the Lions, who are struggling with the frightening, eminently deeper prospect of losing a teammate and a friend.
Their minds are glued to Milton Lee, a popular senior who, instead of manning his customary goalie position Monday, lay fighting for his life in the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Hospital inBaltimore.
Milton was injured seriously Saturday night in an automobile accident. He underwent more than seven hours of surgery to repair, among other things, a broken pelvis, a broken femur and a brokenjaw. As of yesterday, he was in serious but stable condition.
Ross drove to University Hospital in Baltimore after Monday's game to visit Milton, who drifted in and out of consciousness while battling a life-threatening post-operative fever. The sight of Milton in that condition dealt Ross a jolt of perspective. The shock left his voice cracking and his eyes watering yesterday.
"My kids are playing theirhearts out, we're having the best year we've ever had, and I can't enjoy the victories," he said. "We've got a much bigger task in front of us than these stupid lacrosse games. Hopefully, everybody's prayers will pull him through. I'd trade the whole season in to get Milton back."
Milton was missing Monday, but in a sense he was everywhere. His No. 24 was taped to the back of every Howard player's helmet. "Do It for Milton" signs were taped all over the locker room. Even JoeWilson, Howard's senior defenseman and cornerstone, could be heard yelling instinctively to emergency goalie Sean Foster, "Milton, gimme the ball!"
"Everyone is Milton's friend in school. He's never had any problems with anyone," Wilson said. "He's one of the most well-liked guys on the team. He's come so far, and he's come up big in so many big games for us."
The Lions doused the county's most surprising team -- Glenelg stunned Mount Hebron Friday in overtime, 9-8, and entered Monday's game with a 4-0 record against the county -- with their best offensive show of the spring.
Numerous players did it for Milton on Monday, after the Lions, perhaps still thinking about the fate of their friend, stumbled to an early 1-0 deficit. The awakened team was something to behold, however, burying Glenelg under a six-goal, second-period barrage, outshooting the Gladiators, 22-6, en route to a 7-2 halftime lead, and never looking back.
Scott Frye, Howard's remarkable senior attackman, scored two goals and added five assists to tie Michael Rice's school career scoring record of 179 points, a record Frye should claim tonight at Liberty High School in Carroll County.
Attackman Mike McCarthy scored three goals and had an assist. Attackman Sean Chaney scored twice. Midfielders Lamont Anderson (three goals), Neal Jacobs (three goals) and Rick Platter (one goal, three assists) controlled the middle of the field. Wilson (18 ground balls) and Reggie Gaither (one goal, one assist) held Jason Pett and Nevin Hilliard -- Glenelg's leading scorers -- to a combined one goal.
In the middle of their second-quarter surge, after Glenelg coach Rick Kincaid called a time out, the Lions yelled Milton's name in theteam huddle. And it soon became clear there was no stopping Howard that day.
The game's most notable player, though, was Foster, a junior midfielder who had never played goalie, yet found himself fillingMilton's shoes under grim circumstances.
Many of the players found out about the accident Sunday, but Foster was one of the few Ross couldn't reach. He heard the news when he reported to a Monday pre-school practice in the gym.
Then, when Ross -- who also spent part ofthe morning assisting a firefighting effort behind the gym -- turnedto backup goalie David Roseman, Roseman informed him of his grandfather's death over the weekend. The fu
neral was set for Monday, making Roseman unavailable for the Glenelg game.
"We voted as a team on whether we should get a jayvee kid to do it (play in goal against Glenelg) or do it ourselves," Ross said. "It was unanimous. The kids said, 'We've come this far as a team together. We'll do it.' "
Foster stepped up to volunteer.
"There was dead silence during practice. You could hear every ball hit the gym floor. The whole day the mood was very down," said Foster, who had never played in goal and yet made 10 saves. He also benefited from a man-to-man defense that rarely allowed the Gladiators a high-percentage shot and an offense that kept the ball away from Glenelg for long stretches.
"We won, no thanks to me. I didn't think it (playing goalie) would be that hard, butI was incredibly wrong," Foster said. "I'd have to say Milton holds this team together. I hope he's back soon, at least on the sideline."
It's anybody's guess as to what effect the accident will have on the Lions in the season's home stretch. Despite the presence of Roseman, a capable backup, Milton's absence has to hurt their chances for a state championship.
But who's to say what it will do to the Lions as young men, as they come to grips with sudden hardship? As they channel their efforts by dedicating the next three weeks of lacrosse to Milton, who's to say they won't win it all, then look back on the spring of 1991 as a time when the lessons they learned about friendship and unity dwarfed the importance of a state title?
"Adversity like this can do two things. It can either split you apart or pull you together," Ross said. "It puts everything in perspective."
Foster said, "Winning a game like this tells us we're going all the way.
"We're going to bring the trophy home to Milton."