No. 9 Severna Park fends off stuboorn Howard, wins record-tying ninth boys state lacrosse title; Harmeyer and Penebianco lead closing charge (VIDEO HERE!)

by Nelson Coffin

Although it may not have been the main motivation for Severna Park, claiming a record-tying ninth state championship Wednesday night at Paint Branch High School, being at the top of all state public school lacrosse programs sure is a nice byproduct of the ninth-ranked Falcons’ 9-6 victory over No. 17 Howard.

No doubt, with plenty of key underclassmen set to return for the 2020 campaign, the Falcons (19-1) are licking their chops for a chance to bag a 10th crown next spring.

“It says a lot about our kids, their families and school administrators,” Severna Park coach Dave Earl said.

Yet, to some observers’ surprise, the win over the Lions from Howard County was much more challenging than expected.

“We had great effort, great drive and I never questioned our will to win,” Howard coach Jimmy Creighton said. “All I asked was that we have a chance near the end, and we did that. We got down, and we didn’t give up.”

It took a late spurt from some of the Falcons’ most reliable performers — junior attackman Mike Harmeyer, junior midfielder Connor Penebianco and sophomore FOGO Colin Shadowens — to finally subdue stubborn Howard and its tricky zone defense that had Severna Park’s offense off-balance for significant stretches.

“I can’t say enough about how well coached Howard is — and how tough they are,” Earl added.

“They had a great zone,” Severna Park senior attackman James Maher said. “We hadn’t seen anything like it before.”

When the Falcons finally solved the Lions ‘D,’ it came at just the right time, after Howard (13-6) had tied the score at 6-6 with just under nine minutes left in regulation on a goal by junior attackman Jeff Bruner.

That’s when Shadowens’ face-off spurred a three-goal scoring spree by Harmeyer, who broke the tie with his fourth goal of the game and 99th of the season, and Penebianco, who sealed the deal with his second and third goals of the contest.

Simultaneously, Severna Park’s defense tightened when it was needed the most.

“My defense was with me every step of the way,” Severna Park junior goalie Casy Fox said. “We stuck to our game plan and they didn’t get any more (goals).”

Sophomore midfielder Kurt Klaus scored the game’s first goal for the Falcons before Henry Frazier IV replied in kind for the Lions to net the equalizer with just under four minutes left in the first quarter.

The tie was short-lived, however, as Shadowens broke the deadlock just six second later after claiming the ensuing face-off and beating senior goalie Matt Hubbard from about eight yards on the dead run.

Harmeyer netted the next two goals for the Falcons before Frazier IV bolted down the right seam and buried a running shot past junior Falcon goalie Casey Fox to make it, 4-2.

Then Harmeyer and Frazier traded goals before heading into halftime with Severna Park ahead, 5-3.

Despite some sloppy play, especially on clears against the Falcons’ 10-man ride, the Lions still found a way — on goals by Frazier IV and freshman attackman Nathan Boone — to draw even midway through the third quarter.

Penebianco then snapped the deadlock for his first goal of the game on a feed from senior attackman James Maher with 25 second left in the period.

Persistence paid off for dogged Howard, which forged a tie for the final time on Bruner’s tally before the Falcons’ offense took over to finish the deal.

Howard 1 2 1 2 — 6
Severna Park 3 2 1 3 — 9
Goals: H-Henry Frazier 4, Nathan Boone, Jeff Bruner; SP-Michael Harmeyer 4, Connor Penebianco 3, Kurt Klaus, Colin Shadowens.
Assists: H-Jeff Bruner, Ethan Mitchell; SP,-James Maher 3, Connor Penebianco, Joseph Kilpatrick.
Saves: H-Matt Hubbard 11; SP-Casey Fox 6