Nick Williams' left shoulder and elbow were bruised. A white headband rested above his slightly swollen right eye, covering a split in his forehead -- the result of a collision -- that he was told will require "six or seven stitches."
But Williams said the pain was well worth enduring to produce Calvert Hall's come-from-behind 7-5 victory over St. Mary's last night in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference final. The senior scored two late goals that lifted his team to the lacrosse title before 4,500 at Minnegan Field at Towson Stadium.
"The hits are part of lacrosse, man," said Williams, whose goal-bound scoring runs covered 65 yards or more. "And if you can't take the hits, you shouldn't be out on the field."
Williams' effort was matched by those of midfielder Kevin Buchanan (two goals), Grant Martin and Kevin Huntley, with one goal each, and, particularly, sophomore keeper Jeremy Blevins (19 saves). St. Mary's coach Matt Hogan called Blevins' effort "unbelievable."
Similar hustle by players such as Shane Nigrin, Mike Edwards, Chris Dunlop, Anthony Miele and Brian Gorman hoisted the No. 2 Cardinals to victory in their first playoff appearance since losing in the 1997 semifinals, and to a league-best 18-4 record after failing to make the playoffs last year with an 11-9 mark.
But it came only after a physical game that featured five ties against a larger opponent in No. 4 St. Mary's (12-7), a semifinalist last year that was making its first final appearance since its unbeaten championship year of 1996.
"Our motto this year was, `Earn it'. And I can say there's not a team that's outworked us," said Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly. "It's been a blessing to coach such terrific young men. This championship was the result of their believing in themselves and putting the team's desires before their own."
Williams was the epitome of that, zigzagging through a physical Saints defense for three goals, the last two in the final 5:22. And the diminutive Blevins, a 5-foot-5, 120-pound sophomore, made seven of his nine fourth-period saves of point-blank shots to secure the Cardinals' first title since 1977. The championship-game berth was their first since 1989.
"We knew [Blevins] was good. I thought we got great shots. He really did a heck of a job, especially at the end of the game," said Hogan, whose Saints led 4-3 at halftime.
The teams had split regular-season games, with Calvert Hall taking the second meeting by 9-5, overcoming a 3-0 deficit with eight unanswered goals. Last night, however, the Saints' standout defender, Eric Zerrlaut, limited the top-scoring Huntley to a goal, and midfield teammate Will Dalton lost his battle with faceoff specialist Matt Eckerl by only 9-8.
The slowed momentum allowed the Saints to overcome a 1-0 deficit for a 3-1 lead at 5:20 of the second period.
But there was a reason the Cardinals had scored 14 goals in their previous three games. Someone has always stepped forward. This time, it was Williams.
"Guys like Nick were stepping up big when they're shutting me off. We're deep this year and have other guys who can get it done," Huntley said. "This is the first one ever for me, and there's nothing better."
Goals: S--Pastirik 2, Stanwick, Schneider, Dalton. C--Williams 3, Buchanan 2, Martin, Huntley. Assists: S--Pastirik. C--Nigrin. Saves: S--Carter 9. C--Blevins 19. Half: 4-3, S