Jim Peters, Westminster's boys lacrosse team won a game at Al Laramore Field in Annapolis last night that it may never forget.
The 15th-ranked Owls routed Walter Johnson of Montgomery County, 17-7, in the Class 4A-3A state semifinals. The Carroll County team advanced to its first state final, a 4 p.m. meeting tomorrow at UMBC with No. 11 Severna Park (15-4), but the victory wasn't one of total joy, as it came over a team mourning the death of a player.
Walter Johnson's starting goalie, junior Roderick Bower, 17, was killed in an automobile accident early Saturday morning in Potomac. Westminster's captains presented a card signed by all of the Owls players and coaches to the Wildcats in pre-game warm-ups.
Westminster then had to put its feelings aside and go out and get what it had been working for - a chance to play in the state final.
Senior Matt Duke led the unbeaten Owls (16-0) with four goals and Brandon Johnson and Ryan Finch scored three each. Sophomore goalie Chris Collins replaced senior starter Ben Huber, who injured his right thumb in pre-game drills last night, and made seven saves.
Huber, who had given up just 62 goals all season, is questionable for the state final.
"Chris did a great job for us," said 23-year coach Jim Peters.
"I told the kids not to feel guilty because we had a goal to accomplish and had to take care of business," Peters said. "We were all very shocked Saturday when we found out what happened, and I'm very proud of the way my kids came out and played tonight."
The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Annapolis, but was rescheduled after the Walter Johnson team voted to play.
"I was prepared to forfeit, because it's only a game and this is life, but the kids wanted to play for Rod," said Wildcats coach Jim Collin, who put senior Tim Peterson in the goal. Peterson had 11 saves.
"Tim played very well and I couldn't be prouder of him and our team, but that was a heck of a team we played."
The Walter Johnson players each wore a No. 2 decal on the back of their helmets in honor of Bower.
Westminster came out firing with Duke, Johnson and Ryan Finch scoring two goals each in a 6-3 first period. The Owls' lead ballooned to 11-4 at the break with Alex Finch sparking the second period with two assists and a goal.
With 3:20 left in the third period, the Owls had a 16-5 lead and the officials invoked a running clock the rest of the way.
"It's the farthest we have ever gone but we ran into a great team and have nothing to be ashamed of," said Alex Chaudry, who led Walter Johnson (13-4) with three goals.
"It's a tragedy what happened, but we'll remember Rod as a great person and never forget what we did together."