Sixth-ranked Hereford's Rustin Bryant faced pesky defense for most of Wednesday night's Class 3A-2A state championship against No. 15 River Hill at UMBC.
Instead of being frozen out of the offense, Bryant deftly dodged around his defenders or broke free on a counterattack. In the end, the Maryland-bound senior had his best game, breaking a state championship game record with seven goals in leading the Bulls to a 13-9 victory.
It was Hereford's third consecutive state title and sixth overall.
"I restrung my stick last night, and it was just exciting," Bryant said. "I was just putting them on cage and it was working out for me. We talked all season about how we wanted to win and it really meant a lot to us. We thought we had the talent to do it."
River Hill's Jim Marlatt finished with five goals and almost sparked a comeback despite suffering an ankle injury with 90 seconds left in the first half.
The Hawks (13-6) were trailing Hereford by two goals at the time of the injury, but the Bulls (20-1) extended that lead to four less than a minute later on goals by Bryant and Tyler Dimes, who finished with three goals.
"To see our leader go down, I think it was only natural for the guys to kind of hit the panic button a little bit," River Hill coach Keith Gonsouland said. "The message I wanted to get across to our team at halftime was that this is a lacrosse game and all we have to do is keep running hard and we'll get back in this game."
Marlatt returned midway through the third quarter and got the Hawks back on track. After a goal by Bryant helped Hereford regain a four-goal lead, Marlatt scored twice and Max Williams (three goals) added one to cut the lead to 9-8 with 10:23 left in the game.
"When it first happened, I felt it pop and I was afraid I was not going to be able to come back into the game," said Marlatt, who will attend Notre Dame in the fall. "It was the third time this year I sprained it, so I was scared. I calmed down, put some ice on it and said, 'My career is not done.' "
Dimes and Bryant scored for Hereford to get the lead back to three midway through the fourth quarter, but the Hawks continued to fight. Marlatt's fifth goal cut the lead to 11-9 with 6:29 remaining.
Hereford, however, ended that rally on goals by Matt Dusek and Bryant less than a minute apart that sealed the game.
"We definitely respected Jimmy [Marlatt]," Hereford coach Brian King said. "We didn't want it to get too crazy. We wanted to play our game. We have a good defense."
Goals: H—Bryant 7, Dimes 3, Stafford, Andrews, Dusek; R—Marlatt 5, Williams 3, Bonhag. Assists: H—Andrews 3, DePaola, Stafford; R—Marlatt, Leon, Kaiser, Smith. Saves: H—Yelle 9; R—Healy 11. Half: H: 8-4.