The friendship of Liberty attackmen Steve Freedman and Mark Donahue began suddenly six years ago on a lacrosse field.
"I came across the midfield line and Steve crushed me," said Donahue, who retaliated with a slash across Freedman's leg. When the two returned to Sykesville Middle School that Monday, their collision was the topic of conversation.
"We hated each other for a while and couldn't stand each other," Freedman said. "It was definitely a strange way to meet someone."
That fierce introduction created a mutual respect that has continued at Liberty, where the two seniors, along with junior Chuck Henn, have joined to form the most potent attack combination in Carroll County. The trio produced an impressive 147 points in 2000 and helped the Lions claim a share of the county title.
And with the entire attack unit returning and five starters back on defense, coach Sal Picataggi's Lions are one of the favorites to make a run at the county crown in 2001. The Lions are 2-2 with Mark Donahue recording five goals and 12 assists and Steve Freedman with 10 goals and one assist.
Donahue and Freedman began their playing careers in the third grade, progressing through the Freedom Optimist in-house program (where they first collided) and the Maryland Youth Lacrosse Association. Eventually, they began practicing in one another's back yard. At Liberty as freshmen, Donahue immediately joined the varsity, and Freedman spent a season on the JV, making the move from midfield to attack. The next season, they were on the same line. They polished their game by going against a host of standout defensemen such as Michah Reese, Joe Onheiser, Justin Felmey and Cameron Cook in practice on a daily basis.
"They took their lumps in practice and that helped them get better," Picataggi said. "It made them tougher and smarter."
When things were just starting to click, Donahue was checked after scoring a goal against North Carroll in the fifth game of the season, suffering a broken collarbone. It ended his season and prevented him from traveling to Australia with the U.S. national men's team that participated in the under-17 World Games. However, at Liberty, Freedman's game improved when he was forced to fill the void.
The two friends made up for lost time last season by piling up some big numbers and earning All-County honors. Donohue's 32-goal, 38-assist effort put him third in the county in points. Plus, he was able to exact some revenge by beating North Carroll with a goal in double overtime.
Freedman, the consummate finisher, totaled 37 goals and seven assists, including 11 goals and five assists in three playoff games.
Donahue and Freedman complement each other on the field, but their games are quite different. At 5 feet 9, 155 pounds, Donahue prefers to use his quickness and finesse to beat his opponents. Donahue likens his duels with opposing defensemen to a chess match.
"You have to know what you can and can't do against them," said Donahue, a two-time All-County choice.
Freedman is more of a bull, using his 6-2, 200-pound frame to muscle the opposition. His shot is the "hardest on the field," Donahue said.
"They both rely on each other. Mark creates a lot of things and gets a lot of assists from Steve Freedman," Picataggi said. "The communication is not even verbal; it's a look, or they read each other's body movements."
"We feed off each other," Freedman said. "I know what he's going to do and he knows what I'm going to do."