St. Paul's reclaims its crown, topping No. 3 Gilman, 15-10

No. 1 Crusaders repeat atop A after 12-year wait

MIAA A lacrosse championship

High Schools

May 22, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

It's been 12 years, but St. Paul's proved it was back among the boys lacrosse elite last night against No. 3 Gilman at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Known as slow starters, the Crusaders jumped out to a six-goal first-quarter lead on the way to a 15-10 victory in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game before 5,300.

It was the third A Conference title for St. Paul's under coach Mitch Whiteley, who guided it to crowns in 1991 and '92, and comes three years after a scandal set back the program.

In the spring of 2001, the Crusaders were the nation's preseason No. 1 team. But school officials decided to forfeit St. Paul's entire season after discovering that a JV player secretly videotaped himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl and then showed the tape to teammates.

"The kids we had three, four years ago were wonderful kids who made a mistake. This is another group of tremendous kids, and I don't think people really expected us to be here all year long," Whiteley said.

"Plus we had a little extra incentive today: One of our fellow [league] coaches said that if St. Paul's won the MIAA this year it would be an embarrassment to the whole league. The kids stuck together and did a tremendous job."

The top-ranked Crusaders (17-3) have made great strides to get back to where they were. Gavin Gill (four goals, four assists), Zach Thomas (five goals), Bart Wagner (four assists) and Johnny Black (three goals) led the way.

Jason Donati had two assists, and Stuart Thomas, Kyle Smedley, Emmett Ford, Chas Carlson and Taylor Marino also contributed to a Crusaders offense that had assists on 12 goals. Keeper Matt Landsman made 16 saves behind defenders Pike Howard, Thomas Zimmerman, Matt Kogelschatz and Chol Miller.

Junior midfielders Kyle LaGratta and Greg Seaman sparked an overall 21-6 advantage in faceoffs as the Crusaders avenged an 11-7 loss to the Greyhounds during which Gill and Wagner were limited to a combined four points.

Will Bradley and Scott Tompkins scored three goals for Gilman, which got three points from Davis Lindsey and two points each from John Pinney and Alex Wharton.

The Crusaders jumped out to an uncharacteristic six-goal first-quarter lead paced by Gill, who scored three goals and assisted on two in the run.

The Crusaders scored on their first three shots for a 3-0 lead in the game's first 1:05, and had a 5-1 lead on seven shots after Gill picked off a clearing pass and one-timed the ball 30 yards into the goal with 3:45 left in the first quarter.

Gilman tried to keep pace behind the efforts of Bradley, Pinney and Tompkins, but the Crusaders got three straight goals from Black for an 11-4 lead. Gilman trailed at the half, 11-6.

The game was the rematch of Gilman's 1998 victory in which Gavin Gill's older brother, Connor, was limited by Greyhounds defender Damien Davis.

"St. Paul's had a loaded team that year, but Gilman had a great team that year. But we were feeling it this year," said Gill, whose older brothers, St. Paul's graduates Connor and Brendan, watched from the stands. "They put a great team out there against us, but we had an emotional start and started rolling and couldn't be stopped. All I can say is that we're back."

A three-goal run had Gilman within 11-7 after Lindsey's goal early in the third period as the pace of the game slowed considerably and the Greyhounds tightened up defensively.

But after Landsman made five consecutive saves, the Crusaders got a late goal from Emmett Ford for a 12-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

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