Severna Park masters No. 11 Catonsville again for shot at sixth straight state boys lacrosse championship; Ryan’s OT goal sends Mount Hebron to first final since 2016 (VIDEO HERE!)

Mount Hebron’s Keegan Ryan (center) is congratulated by teammates after his overtime goal in Saturday’s Class 3A state boys lacrosse semifinal. His score with 3:38 left in the extra session lifted the 14th-ranked Vikings to a 6-5 victory Frederick County’s Linganore and a spot in Wednesday’s state title game at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex.

by Derek Toney

Severna Park High’s boys lacrosse’s aura of invincibility, which appeared to be fading a couple of weeks ago, is very much intact.

The ninth-ranked Falcons are on the verge of another state championship, defeating 11th-ranked Catonsville, 12-7, in a Class 3A state semifinal Saturday at Crofton. Mount Hebron secured a trip to Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Complex with a 6-5 overtime victory over Frederick County’s Linganore. 

Keegan Ryan’s goal, just 22 seconds into the extra session, was the “golden ticket” for the 14th-ranked Vikings. It’s the first state final appearance since 2016 for the Ellicott City school (17-1 overall), which won the Howard County crown this spring for the first time since 2007.

“Our chemistry is so good which is why we can play through these tough games,” said Ryan, a sophomore.

The Vikings’ man-down defense denied Linganore (13-2) in the final minute of regulation, forcing overtime. Gavin Fleck scooped a ground ball off the faceoff and proceeded behind the goal.

With Ryan hovering in front of the goal circle, Fleck flipped the ball to Ryan as the Linganore defense shifted slightly towards Fleck. Ryan put the ball high into the net. 

Longtime Vikings coach Mike McCarthy said Saturday was a struggle, but his kids found a way.

“This is how it’s been for us all year, whenever we’re challenged, we answer,” said McCarthy. “I didn’t look good for a while.”

The Vikings trailed 5-3 in the second half after four straight Linganore scores. They were constantly flustered by Lancers junior goalie Jackson Curtis. 

Ryan’s helper to Cooper Stokenberg, with 46.8 seconds left in the third, pulled Mount Hebron to within 5-4. Curtis came up with another stop with about five minutes left in regulation, but Mount Hebron regained possession and called a timeout with 4:14 to play. 

Gianni Karam converted off a pass from Nick Machiren, tying the game. The Vikings were flagged for unnecessary roughness, giving Linganore an extra-man opportunity with 1:08 left in regulation. Everett Armstead stopped Kyle Gardner’s low rip with about four seconds remaining.

Armstead was mobbed by most of the Vikings’ bench after Fleck’s winning score. He broke free and made a mad dash to the other end of the field to jump on Fleck.

“I guess some of my teammates didn’t know in overtime you got to go to the guy who scores the goal,” laughed Armstead. “They all came to me and I said ‘No, we got to celebrate as a team. I gave Keegan a big hug.”

Armstead, who wasn’t sure he was going to play after a mass was found in his chest after contacting COVID-19 earlier in the year, hopes to have a big celebration Wednesday evening at Loyola’s RAC.  

“We always find a way to win,” said Armstead, who finished with six saves. “We’re all really great friends and great teammates. We trust each other.”

It’s back to the RAC for Severna Park, which methodically took apart previously undefeated Catonsville in the second half for an opportunity at a sixth consecutive state championship.

Senior attack Nolan Zborai had three goals and four assists for the Falcons (15-4), and James Ruppert added a hat trick. John Bolster finished with a hat trick for Catonsville.

On the hottest day of the year, the Anne Arundel County champs scorched the Comets (18-1) with eight goals in a little over a quarter in the rematch of last year’s 4A state title match. Severna Park will play Mount Hebron for 3A supremacy, Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Severna Park’s Daniel Stack tries to get past Catonsville’s Frank Manalansan during the first half of Saturday’s 3A state semifinal. The ninth-ranked Falcons took over in the second half, ending the No. 11 Comets’ perfect season and advancing to a sixth straight state final.

The Falcons looked unsure about a month ago after losing at home to rival Broadneck, ending a streak of 61 straight victories against league foes (including playoffs) and 45 in regular season Anne Arundel play.

They atoned, decisively handling Broadneck in the county title game on their rivals’ field nearly two weeks ago. 

Saturday, Severna Park extended its postseason win streak to 29.

“They’re veterans,” said Falcons coach Dave Earl. “After what they’ve been through the last couple of years, they’re just hungry for it.”

 “We really have come together as a family,” Zborai said. “At the beginning of the season, a lot of people counted us out…we really embraced that.”

Up 4-3 at halftime, Severna Park, which went indoors along with Catonsville for an extended intermission due to the excessive heat, lit up the Comets’ defense for seven third quarter scores, starting with Ryan LaRocque stuffing a shot by Catonsville standout goalie Brian Ruppel in the opening minute. 

After Ruppert’s unassisted tally made it 6-3, Falcons goalie Ashby Shepherd’s save turned into a transition score with Zborai finishing a Kevin Bredeck pass.

Zborai, who benefitted from Catonsville’s defensive focus on Towson University-bound teammate Joaquin Villagomez, assisted on scores for Ruppert and Parker Sealey before his second goal, with just 9.2 seconds left in the third for a 10-4 advantage.

The Falcons won the faceoff to start the fourth and Zborai completed his hat trick. Seven different players scored for the Robinson Road school.

Zborai said Severna Park took a different approach against Ruppel, the area’s best public school goalie, headed to the University of Maryland.

“Ruppel is a great goalie. We knew we had to take good shots, take singles, not home runs,” said Zborai. “We really focused on taking good shots.”

The Falcons’ breakout was reminiscent of last year’s state final meeting. Severna Park scored the first 10 goals en route to an 11-3 victory.

The Comets, courtesy of an extra-man score from Mansalan and Byron Newman’s unassisted goal, were with Severna Park Saturday at the break. 

Then came the third quarter.

“I didn’t stick with my game plan…I got rushed,” said Catonsville coach KR Schultz. “That’s a great team with a great tradition.”

Schultz and Ruppel saluted the program’s accomplishments the last couple of years, including back-to-back Baltimore County championships and undefeated regular seasons.

“No one quit,” said Ruppel, fighting back tears. “I’m so grateful. It’s been a great four years, and wouldn’t trade it or my teammates for anything.”

It’ll be one final ride Wednesday for Severna Park’s seniors, looking to equal the state record for consecutive titles. The Falcons will try to surpass the mark for most state championships with 11.

“We want to win every year,” said Zborai. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the team or what coaches we have, we all want the same thing.”

Class 3A state lacrosse semifinals

at Crofton

No. 14 Mount Hebron 6, Linganore 5 (OT)

Goals: Linganore – Mullineaux 2, Eisenhart, Griffis, Stansburg ; Mount Hebron – Karam 2, Ryan 2, Smith, Stockenberg  

Assists: Linganore – Stansburg; Mount Hebron – Fleck 2, Karam, Machiran, Ryan

Saves: Linganore – Curtis 13; Mount Hebron – Armstead 6

Linganore 1 0 4 0 0 – 5

Mount Hebron 0 2 1 2 1 – 6

No. 9 Severna Park 12, No. 11 Catonsville 7

Goals: Severna Park – Ruppert 3, Zborai 3, Sealey 2, Cope, LaRocque, Stroble, Villagomez; Catonsville – Bolster 3, Manalansan 2, Newman, Rualo

Assists: Severna Park – Zborai 4, Bredeck; Catonsville – Azbill, Kaplan, Rualo

Saves: Severna Park – Shepherd 8; Catonsville – Ruppel 11

Severna Park 1 3 6 2 – 12

Catonsville 1 2 1 3 – 7