The prospect of facing the young but talented St. Paul's attack again next year was bad enough for Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference rivals -- and that was before yesterday's league finals.
Now, St. Paul's grades out even higher. The MSA's most potent offense (and the rest of the Crusaders) will have that little extra boost from confidence born of a championship after edging St. Mary's, 9-8, at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Junior attackmen Rob Bouse and Mitch Whiteley, with sophomore Mike Watson, burned a depleted Saints defense for seven goals and three assists. Speedy midfielder Kyle Durkee broke the last tie with two goals in a nine-second span of the fourth quarter.
It was just enough for St. Paul's (12-4, 8-4 league) to overcome the deliberate approach of St. Mary's (12-4, 8-4) and earn its record 22nd MSA championship (but first since 1982). St. Mary's lost its only final since joining the league in 1986.
Nothing came easily for the favored Crusaders. St. Mary's played without defensemen Mike Murray and Todd Harrison -- disqualified after game ejections in Tuesday's semifinal at Boys' Latin -- and with a visibly gimpy (hamstring) attackman Rob Chomo. But the Saints were in a 5-5 tie with eight minutes left.
That was mostly because Chris Overend won nine of the first 12 faceoffs, denying the ball to St. Paul's and allowing his ball-control offense to pick its spots. "They definitely tried to zone [defense] it up and slow it down," said Crusaders coach Mitch Whiteley.
There also was an intangible, he said. "I was worried about the ejections. Sometimes that kind of thing can pull a team together, and I thought that their players responded very well to the situation."
"We took it [the ejections] more negatively than positively," said Tim Whiteley, son of the St. Paul's coach. "We were afraid it would bring them together, so it made us work that much harder."
Both said that the disqualifications did have a "trickle-down" effect on St. Mary's. In his attempt to shut off Tim Whiteley, the MSA's scoring leader, Saints coach Jim Moorhead had to go with previous No. 2 defenseman Peter Rowan.
He held Whiteley to one goal and one assist, but Bouse and Watson were free to operate against even less-experienced players. Each responded with three goals and one assist.