It’s great to be the fifth seed in the MIAA A Conference lacrosse playoffs. The last two champions emerged from that position, starting with Boys’ Latin in 2021.

Friday evening, No. 4 Boys’ Latin invoked that lower-seed magic once again Friday, besting fourth-seeded and No. 3 St. Mary’s, 15-11, in a quarterfinal contest at Pascal Field in Annapolis, behind six goals from junior attacker Spencer Ford and the dictating play in the middle of the field by faceoff specialist Parker Hoffman.

“We have talked about that because two years ago we were the fifth seed, and we won it then,” said Hoffman, who lost just two faceoffs in the first half to help stake the Lakers to a commanding 8-2 halftime lead they never fully surrendered the rest of the way. “Yeah, definitely (that fired his squad up).”

The Lakers (12-5 overall), who dropped a 10-9 home decision to the Saints nearly two weeks ago, advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal contest against top-seeded and defending champ McDonogh at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. The Eagles captured last year’s conference crown as the No. 5 seed as well.

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“It’s a new team and a new season. You go into the playoffs knowing that it’s a new season so that was the mindset,” Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell said. “I give a lot of credit to the seniors for staying positive and saying `Hey, man, it’s a new season,’ and they did it.”

St. Mary’s (14-5) came out as the aggressors offensively, but the Saints were consistently denied by Lakers goalkeeper Dylan Cadigan (five first-quarter saves), allowing Boys’ Latin to take a 2-goal lead midway through the first quarter on goals by Ford and Liam White.

The Saints finally broke through with back-to-back goals from long stick midfielder Dylan Sharpe in transition and Nick Golini (four goals) to forge a tie before Hoffman scored the first of his three pivotal goals that helped stem runs by St. Mary’s. Hoffman grabbed the faceoff after Golini’s tying score, raced straight to the goal, and converted for a 3-2 lead.

“The first one was definitely a juice goal. We needed it, totally a momentum change,” said Hoffman of his first scoring strike of the match. “I lost the first (faceoff) and got the hang of the whistle and got the boys the ball, and we were able to score a bunch. In the second half, they got maybe three in a row. Got back into a rhythm and started scoring a lot again.”

Ford pushed that Lakers advantage to 4-2 about 30 seconds into the second quarter off an assist from behind the goal by Niko Karetsos (three assists, goal). That pair struck again with Karetsos hooking up with Ford right outside the crease for a 5-2 lead that increased to six goals by halftime on another strike by Ford, one by Karetsos, and a back shoulder flip in the final minute of the half by Matthew Higgins (three goals, an assist).

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“It was 3-2 and then it was 8-2,” St. Mary’s coach Victor Lilly said. “Just one of them things, 3-2, you’re in the ballgame. They controlled the faceoffs. (Hoffman) controlled the middle of the field and that’s what put them on the scoreboard. We tried to counter it, but our moves didn’t change the outcome of the faceoffs. They kept offensive possession. I think when we went inside for halftime, I think we realized we played 10 minutes of defense in a 12-minute quarter in the second quarter, and that created a hole we could not dig out of tonight.”

That one-sided second quarter gave way to a wild back-and-forth third that saw the Saints fall behind by seven to start the half on a diving goal by Higgins before they outscored the Lakers, 5-2, the rest of the quarter to trim the deficit to 11-7.

The Saints, on goals by Jake Adams, Will Goers, Bobby Keane, and Golini, closed to within 9-6 with 4 minutes, 44 seconds left in the quarter behind better offensive efficiency and a more balanced showing on faceoffs by Justin Webber.

Hoffman, however, halted that comeback with another transition goal off a winning faceoff and Higgins struck again on a pass from Karetsos in transition before a score by Golini provided for the four-goal Saints deficit heading into the final 12 minutes of the postseason match.

Parker Hoffman was a major factor on faceoffs Friday for Boys' Latin, which jumped out to a huge lead against St. Mary's. The Lakers next play No. 1 and defending champ McDonogh in a MIAA A semifinal at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Tuesday. (James Peters)

Ford fed Colin Kenney for a goal and scored two of his own to stake Boys’ Latin to a 14-8 lead with seven-plus minutes left in the game. Hoffman then put the finishing touches on the victory with another goal in transition to give the Lakers a 15-10 advantage with 3:35 remaining in regulation.

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“Our offense was struggling,” said Ford of his team’s performance in Tuesday’s one-goal loss to the Saints. “We had a little convention, an offensive meeting, and we just talked about the things we were struggling with. Then we went out (and) fixed it during practices. It showed tonight and on to the next one. The second quarter was big. That was probably the highest point of the game for us.”

MIAA A CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL

at Pascal Field

NO. 4 BOYS’ LATIN 15, NO. 3 ST. MARY’S 11

Boys’ Latin 3 5 3 4 - 15

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St. Mary’s 2 0 5 4 - 11

GOALS: Boys’ Latin - Spencer Ford 6, Parker Hoffman 3, Matthew Higgins 3, Liam White, Niko Karetsos, Colin Kenney; St. Mary’s - Nick Golini 4, Jake Kucinski 2, Dylan Sharpe, Erik Chick, Will Goers, Bobby Keane, Cole Kucinski

ASSISTS: Boys’ Latin - Niko Karetsos 3, Spencer Ford, George Insley, Max Field, Matthew Higgins, Connor Sydnor; St. Mary’s - Jake Adams 2, Gavin Burlace

SAVES: Boys’ Latin - Dylan Cadigan 13; St. Mary’s - Shea Kennedy 9

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