Earlier this season, North Harford middie Bret Schreiber never imagined he would have another chance to give Coach John Grubb a Gatorade shower.
Friday night, however, the Hawks polished off a season of steady improvement by knocking off previously undefeated C. Milton Wright, 7-4, to win their second straight county championship.
"When we started off the year, I didn't think we had half the team we had," said Schreiber, who scored three goals against C. Milton Wright. "But everybody has worked really hard, like tonight (Friday). We needed everybody to play the best game of the season, and they did."
In the post-game celebration, Schreiber and his cohorts doused Grubb with the traditional victory shower, but the coach didn't seem to mind. Grubb would like to have one more dousing -- at the state championships on May 18.
After beating the Mustangs, the Hawks (12-2overall, 7-0 league) started to think that maybe they can defend their Class 1A/2A state championship. With Friday night's win, they should sew up the second-seeded spot behind Towson in the Class 1A/2A state playoffs. The Hawks' state title defense will begin this Friday night at North Harford at 7:30, although their opponent had not been decided at press time.
The Mustangs' season (13-1, 6-1) isn't over, either, as they also will advance to the playoffs in Class 3A/4A. They had to wait until the outcome of other weekend games to find out where they will be seeded, and where they will play in Friday's quarterfinals.
For a team that started out with a solid midfield and defense, but had to build up an attack, the Hawks have come a long way.
Early on, Grubb had no idea where the scoring would come from. Mostof it still comes from the veteran midfield, especially Schreiber and Tim Lucky (two goals), but the attack is picking up. Junior attackman Chuck Kelly had two goals and two assists against C. Milton Wright.
"I think we're peaking," said Grubb. "Right now, we're where we wanted to be. The kids have a lot of heart. They believe in themselves and they know what it took last year. I think that has just filtered down to all the kids."
"I think we can live up to last year," said Hawks senior defender Jason Ketner. "This is the last time around for a lot of us, and everybody is working together. The young guys are fired up, too."
To beat C. Milton Wright, the Hawks played solidball all over the field. They relied on basic ball control and soliddefense to carry them through.
"We knew they ran a lot, so we hadto control their transition game," said Ketner. "We did that by holding on to the ball on offense and playing solid defense, and our goalie was fabulous."
Goalie Tom Murrell had eight saves, including two at point-blank range in the fourth quarter.
The rest of the defensemen -- Chris Gress, Chris Beall, Mark Bostic and Jason Zeigler -- also played outstanding games, upsetting the flow of the Mustangs' offense at almost every turn.
The Hawks' starting trio at defense --Ketner, Gress and Beall -- took control right from the start with tight coverage. Early in the first quarter, the Mustangs forced passes inside to cover players.
Schreiber put the Hawks on the scoreboardearly, hitting his first shot just a minute and four seconds into the game.
Faceoff man Lucky set the attack in motion all night. His control off the faceoffs was a major factor in shutting down the Mustangs' running game. The senior, who set a school record by controlling 68 percent of his faceoffs last year, dominated the Mustangs. C. Milton Wright won only one of 14 faceoffs the entire night.
They never had a lead, but the Mustangs remained within striking distance allthe way. Chris Lloyd scored an extra-man goal to tie with 1:35 left in the quarter.
North Harford's Kelly made a nice defensive play to steal the ball away from the Mustangs defense and take it in for agoal with 34 seconds left in the first half.
Schreiber opened thesecond quarter with another unassisted goal, but in the final five minutes of the first half C. Milton Wright hit its best stretch of thegame.
Rob Heagerty hit Brian Moen for a fast-break goal to cut the Hawks lead to 3-2. Later in the quarter, the Mustangs again tied the game as Scott Panowitz hit Rich Heckner with a quick pass from behind the crease.
After halftime, the Mustangs again had trouble controlling the ball. Lucky scored the only two goals of the third quarter -- one an extra-man goal on a feed from Kelly -- to put the Hawks up, 5-3.
The Mustangs pulled within one early in the fourth quarterwhen Panowitz again hit Heckner.
But Kelly answered right back for North Harford a minute later. Kelly then fed Schreiber for an insurance goal with 39 seconds left.