The 1991 high school boys lacrosse season rewarded fans with a long-overdue change of pace -- a competitive spring.
First, someone other than Mount Hebron got to rule the roost.
The Howard Lions made sure of that six weeks ago, when they beat the five-time, defending-champion Vikings, 7-4. It was the first timeWarren Michael dropped a county game in his four-year coaching tenure. Howard went on to win its first county championship in seven yearsunder coach Dan Ross.
But what seemed like Howard's most celebrated season became its most bittersweet.
Ten games into a perfect season, the Lions lost senior goalie Milton Lee for the season after hesuffered serious injuries in an automobile accident. The Lions initially responded heroically by whipping Glenelg, 15-6, while Lee lay inthe hospital fighting for his life.
The Lions then dropped their next two games.
Howard regrouped to beat Centennial and claim the county title on the regular season's final day, but the party was brief. Howard discovered hours after receiving the county title plaque it had barely missed making the Class 3A/4A state playoffs.
Hebron,meanwhile, battled injuries all season, and on the strength of a strong non-league showing, the Vikings made the 1A/2A playoffs as the fourth seed.
The Vikings then whipped Hammond -- making its first playoff appearance -- before dumping previously undefeated Towson in the semifinals. Hebron then edged defending state champion North Harford in overtime, 8-7, to win its fourth state championship, and its second under Michael.
Then there were the Glenelg Gladiators, perhapsthe spring's best lacrosse story.
A 1-13 doormat two years ago, the Gladiators, under Coach Rick Kincaid, came on strong to post a 10-4 record and produced their biggest victory ever, a 9-8 overtime victory at Hebron. Glenelg also just missed the playoffs.
What marked the county season most was its competitive nature. Unlike previous seasons, when Hebron and Howard drew away from the field to conduct their own two-team duel for the league title, this year nearly produced a five-way tie for first place.
Had Centennial beaten Howard, thatwould have happened. As it turned out, Howard finished with a 6-1 record, while Hebron, Hammond and Glenelg finished in a three-way tie for second place, each a game in front of Centennial.
The Howard County Sun's All-County first-team selections reflect the level playingfield that characterized the county.
Howard placed a league-leading four players on the team, followed by two each from Hebron and Glenelg and one apiece from Hammond and Centennial.
Here are the first-team picks:
Attack: Scott Frye of Howard, Nevin Hilliard of Glenelg and Jeff Freimanis of Centennial.
Frye's banner season is covered elsewhere (see story on Player of the Year), so we'll move on to Hilliard.
As Glenelg's senior co-captain, Hilliard had a way of sneaking up on teams with his deceptive quickness and underrated stickwork. He also had a way of burning teams when it was time to shoot.
Hilliard scored 32 goals and had 11 assists on 52 percent shooting.
He was the team's second-leading scorer behind midfielder Jason Pett. He had several big days -- against Atholton (four goals, three assists), Oakland Mills (three goals, two assists) and Hammond (three goals, one assist) -- but none was bigger than the three-goal afternoon he enjoyed in the Gladiators' 9-8 overtime upset of Mount Hebron.
"He was very quiet, not very flashy, but he was great with ball control. He did a superb job all year," said Kincaid. "He was our true go-to guy underneath."
Freimanis was the brightest spot on Centennial's disappointing 6-6 team, which lost four games by one or two goals.
The senior crease attackman scored in every game and wound up with a team-high 35 goals and four assists. He was also third on the team in ground balls with 48.
Freimanis scored four goals in an overtime defeat against C. Milton Wright of Harford County, then scored three in the Eagles' 11-8 victory over Glenelg, which put them in position to gain a share of the county title. Freimanis scored two goalsin Centennial's 9-5 loss to Howard.
Midfield: Jason Pett of Glenelg, Mike McQuaid of Mount Hebron and Ricky Matthews of Hammond.
Pett, Glenelg's 6-foot-5 senior captain, received heavy consideration for Player of the Year honors. He was the leader of the county's most surprising team.
"It seemed like whenever we needed someone to pick us up, he (Pett) was there to guide us," said Kincaid. "He's the best captain I've ever had. He did everything but carry the water."
It seemed like Pett was everywhere.
He broke the single-season school record for ground balls with 149. He handled faceoff duties skillfully, controlling 70 percent of them.
Offensively, he was as adept at scoring (team-high 39 goals on 47 percent shooting) as he was atfinding the open man (team-high 32 assists).