Stephenson puts sting into the Scorpions Coach of the Year 1993 ALL-HOWARD COUNTY BOYS LACROSSE TEAM

June 02, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

For a first-year coach, Phil Stephenson sounded pretty cocky. The Oakland Mills Scorpions had yet to play a game and had not experienced a winning season in three years. Yet Stephenson predicted they would play in the state tournament.

"We had a group of kids who I knew were good lacrosse players, but they hadn't reached their potential. They had been struggling to gain respect," Stephenson said. "I wanted to challenge them early. I was either going to look like a genius or an idiot."

Stephenson's statement turned out to be prophetic.

Sparked by a physical zone defense that frustrated opposing attacks and led by offensive players, such as attackmen Shannon Hiteshew and Iggy Levelev and midfielder Shawn Madison, the Scorpions blossomed into the county's comeback team.

And the ride didn't end until Oakland Mills lost, 4-2, to defending 1A-2A champion Towson in last week's state semifinals.

The Scorpions wound up with a 13-4 record. Along the way, they beat nemesis Mount Hebron twice. During the regular season, Oakland Mills edged Hebron in triple overtime, 8-7, for its first victory over the Vikings since 1984. Two weeks later in the regional title game, the Scorpions trounced the Vikings, 17-8.

To achieve the turnaround, the Scorpions had to buy into the preachings of Stephenson and assistant coaches Ken Hovet and Tom O'Grady.

"One of the problems Oakland Mills has had is focusing too much on one guy, and one of the things we told ourselves was that we don't have any stars," Stephenson said. "What I'm most pleased with is that we've got three guys [Hiteshew, Levelev and Madison] who are high scorers. We moved the ball around a lot."

The Scorpions got their comeback started early by winning their first six games.

Then they hit a one-week rut, when they dropped successive games to Glenelg, Centennial and Westminster.

"That was the critical point in our season," Stephenson said.

Led by their defense -- which yielded just 11 goals in 69 man-down situations -- the Scorpions rebounded to win seven straight and fulfill Stephenson's prediction. Their zone defense gave Towson all it could handle in the state semifinals, as the Generals scored just one goal over the final three periods.

"The one thing I'll take credit for is the defense. Tom O'Grady also did a tremendous job working with the defense," Stephenson said.

"I may have the title of head coach, but they [O'Grady and Hovet] made the season. They had some new ideas, and they brought in a new brand of lacrosse."

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