Glenelg film splices together a way to fade out River Hill

The Kickoff

May 09, 2006|By MILTON KENT

Before the twilight completely surrendered to the night Friday, the sky over the River Hill stadium alternately took on purple and orange hues, as if the gods of lacrosse knew something unusual was about to happen.

And the conventional wisdom going into the showdown between the Hawks boys lacrosse team and Glenelg's was that the Gladiators would have their hands full slowing River Hill's run-and-gun attack.

But Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker knew the unconventional could happen when attendance for the team's late afternoon film session was double the expected.

"It didn't surprise me," Hatmaker said. "I said, `Defense, you can come; middies, if you can get there.' There were 20 guys sitting around watching film. That's what we do. The coaches do a great job of breaking down film and the kids buy into it. They study the stuff that we give them.'"

The Gladiators went to town on what they learned from the River Hill film, and used that knowledge to run the Hawks off their own field, 10-6, and take a major step toward the program's second county championship in three years, not to mention a high seed in the coming state playoffs.

Essentially, Glenelg neutralized River Hill's running game, taking away the Hawks' ability to make a lacrosse match feel like a game of hoops.

"They're coming early and we're looking to skip [make cross-field passes] on the back side and they did a great job of keeping their sticks up in passing lanes, like in basketball and knocking our skip passes down, like in basketball," River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland said.

Offensively, Glenelg (9-1) didn't retreat, taking the battle to River Hill early by scoring the first three goals of the game in the first seven minutes.

"It'll hit you quick," one of the Glenelg players yelled from the sideline, and the Gladiators' ferocity did seem to catch the Hawks off guard. River Hill scored twice in the first 2:30 of the second quarter, and it appeared, for a time, that it was on the verge of figuring things out.

But the Gladiators got stingy again defensively, and held on until sophomore attack Chris Gotschall scored three goals in a 1:30 span in the final 2:30 of the half to boost the lead to 6-2.

Technically, Gotschall's hat trick didn't provide the winning margin, but it did give Glenelg a valuable chance to reassert itself.

"I knew they had just gotten two in a row," Gotschall said. "We needed some offense, because we were starting to lose the momentum. But I knew that if I could just drive and try to create something, even if it was just a pass for an assist, it would help. We had to get some points, and I just happened to be open each time and got some goals, so it worked out well for us and helped get us the lead again."

The two teams, practically next-door neighbors, hardly treated each other in the neighborly way. Without the benefit of all the padding football players enjoy, the Gladiators and Hawks whacked each other around with, at times, savage intensity.

River Hill's Dan Hostetler, who plays quarterback, linebacker and defensive end for the Hawks' football team, leveled Glenelg defender Andy Sotak with a vicious hit with less than five minutes to go in the fourth. The sound of the impact drew oohs and aahs from both sidelines and got Hostetler a one-minute penalty for an illegal body check, one of 10 the Hawks drew, compared with only three for Glenelg.

But Sotak absorbed the contact and stayed in the game. The Gladiators typically give an award for administering the biggest smack in a game, but Gotschall joked that Sotak might have earned it for taking the hit from Hostetler.

"He bounced back," Gotschall said of Sotak. "I was surprised. He might get it [the award] for that one. He got hit pretty big there. He got laid out."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Glenelg's focus is a defensive one. After all, Hatmaker was a rugged defender on the 1997 Gladiators team that went 16-4, advancing to the state finals, losing to Towson, 6-4.

When former coach and athletic director Mike Williams left Glenelg last year to become the Howard County coordinator of athletics on the first day of lacrosse practice, Hatmaker moved up from junior varsity to take over the varsity and immediately put the emphasis on defense.

Hatmaker, who is flanked by two of his former Gladiators teammates, assistant coaches Whit Faris and Brian Kruger, got Glenelg to the state 3A-2A semifinals last year.

This year, with the top seed in their region, a few unconventional occurrences and, of course, a little defense thrown in for good measure, Hatmaker just might get that state championship.

"That's what we do," Hatmaker said of the defense. "We drill it and the kids bought into the whole team defensive system. They played it to a T. If you hold a team like that [River Hill] that scored 10 goals in the second half last week [against Mount Hebron] and 14 altogether to six, you're doing something. We're the only ones who believed we could."

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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