Having been to the 2A/1A boys lacrosse state championship game twice before, without wInning a title, the Southern Bulldogs of Anne Arundel County returned to the championship game Wednesday evening at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium with a new weapon.
Ben DeBlauw, a senior transfer from Old Mill, added a whole new dimension to the Southern offense this spring and in Monday’s state final he scored eight goals, one short of the state record for a state final, to lead the Bulldogs to a dominant, 20-7, victory over a talented South Carroll squad.
DeBlauw, a crafty stick handler with quick feet and an even quicker shot, is most comfortable handling the ball and shooting from below his hips. It is an unorthodox approach which he has perfected and it allows him to deliver a variety of shots from unique angles that often catch defenders and goalkeepers off guard.
That was certainly the case against South Carroll as he scored five times in the first half, including four straight at one point. He added three more in the third quarter, including two in the first minute of the second half to end any serious chance of a comeback by the Cavaliers.
“One of the vains of my existence is being told by all of my coaches, overhand, overhand, overhand, and I’ve never done that,” said DeBlauw. “Thankfully, this year Coach Brace gave me my space as a player to create the way that I do, to take the opportunities that I can, and I have always felt more comfortable with it down beneath my hip. I just feel more locked and loaded, shiftier, and I like playing the game where I draw people in with a long stick and shake right underneath of them.”
DeBlauw was new to Southern this year, transferring from Old Mill, and he rediscovered his passion for the game with the Bulldogs.
“I came in on a little bit of a lull of lacrosse,” said DeBlauw. “I was looking to find my love for it again and this team has really formed into a family. It’s made lacrosse the best part of every single day for me and I can’t thank these guys enough.”
Southern broke on top 2-0 with first quarter goals by senior James O’Brien, unassisted, and senior Brandon Thomas, assisted by junior Logan Clingerman, but South Carroll battled back to tie, as Jake Klein, assisted by Sam Crossman, and Kyle Worsley, unassisted, scored for the Cavaliers with 2 minutes, 20 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
Unfortunately for South Carroll, it would not score again for more than 12 minutes of game time, while DeBlauw got rolling with a clutch score with 10 seconds to play in the first quarter to put Southern back on top, 3-2.
O’Brien scored his second goal of the game, early in the second quarter, before DeBlauw ran off four straight scores, pushing the Bulldogs’ lead to 8-2.
Worsley and Crossman got back-to-back goals for the Cavaliers, both assisted by Jack MacKenzie to cut Southern’s lead to four. Clingerman, however, converted a feed from Colin Phipps to send Southern to the half with a 9-4 advantage.
When the teams returned from the intermission, DeBlauw needed just 44 seconds to score two more times and when Phipps netted an unassisted goal at the 9:18 mark of the third quarter, Southern was on its way to the title with a 12-4 lead.
O’Brien finished with a hat-trick for Southern, while Phipps, Thomas, Clingerman and Elias Hutchinson all scored two each and Ryan Collinson scored once. Phipps also added three assists for a five-point performance. Clingerman and Thomas each added two helpers, DeBlauw had one, as did O’Brien, Colin Fleming and DeAndre Walls.
Another key performer for Southern was junior face-off specialist Nic Pomerleau, who took all 31 draws for the Bulldogs and won 17 of them, including 7-of-10 in the third quarter, frustrating South Carroll’s dangerous attack with a lack of opportunities.
“This is one of the biggest games of my high school career. All eyes on me,” said Pomerleau. “It’s been like that for every game, being a face-off guy, it’s just you and your opponent and a whole crowd of people.”
Pomerleau also served as a bit of prognosticator.
“I’m still in shock. We come into each game feeling confident. I feel like that’s something we’re very good at, coming in confident but not cocky. I told Coach Brace before state semifinals and before today’s game, this is our game.”
This lopsided scoreboard can also be explained by Southern’s dominance in two key stats. The Bulldogs out-shot the Cavaliers 45-21 and earned a 43-22 edge in ground balls.
For South Carroll, Worsley led the way with three goals, while MacKenzie had one goal and three assists. In addition, Crossman and Klein each had one goal and one assist, and Jake Snell scored once.
Worsley said that the Cavaliers are a very close knit group that pulled together to make their run at a state championship.
“Making it here is a testament to our hard working team,” said Worsley. “We started the season off rough and we picked ourselves up and really worked hard as a team to get here.”
South Carroll coach Brad Widner said he and his players knew what Southern was all about, but they just did not have the right answers for the Bulldogs.
“Southern is a great team,” said Widner. “We knew coming in Southern had a great face-off guy, strong attack, strong defense and a good goalie. We knew we were going to have to play our best game all season to hang with these guys. We knew exactly what they were going to do. We knew where they were going to initiate from. We knew what their offense was. They were just better than us today.”
Brace, who said his phone was blowing up with congratulatory messages from happy Southern alums said the win meant a great deal to he and his staff.
“We’ve been here twice before on the other side and words can’t describe,” said Brace. “My whole coaching staff is Southern grads and it means a lot to them. A lot of alums are really happy with the first state championship at the school with lacrosse.”
2A/1A BOYS LACROSSE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(AT STEVENSON UNIVERSITY)
SOUTHERN 20, SOUTH CARROLL 7
STH 3 6 6 5 — 20
SC 2 2 3 0 — 7
GOALS: STH-Ben DeBlauw 8, James O’Brien 3, Colin Phipps 2, Brandon Thomas 2, Logan Clingerman 2, Elias Hutchinson 2, Ryland Collinson 1; SC-Kyle Worsley 3, Jack MacKenzie 1, Sam Crossman 1, Jake Klein 1, Jake Snell 1.
ASSISTS: STH-Colin Phipps 3, Logan Clingerman 2, Brandon Thomas 2, Den DeBlauw 1, Colin Fleming 1, James O’Brien 1, DeAndre Walls 1; SC-Jake MacKenzie 3, Sam Crossman 1, Jake Klein 1.
SAVES: STH-Gavin Taquino 5; SC-Evan Hock 10, Grayson Rouchard 0.