Having already dismissed defending state champion Southern in a state quarterfinal last week, the prospects for winning another Class 1A boys lacrosse state championship looked bright for Fallston in Tuesday’s final against Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference rival Perryville.
As expected, the Cougars overwhelmed the less experienced Panthers, 19-8, after snapping a 3-3 deadlock midway through the first quarter.
To be fair, Fallston (16-3 overall) had competed against tougher competition throughout the season while Perryville (13-3) is thought to be more of an emerging program and a relative newcomer to deep playoff runs.
“We’re the first team from Cecil County to make it this far,” Perryville coach Doug Savick said. “That’s quite an accomplishment. We had a team that was wanting and willing to push it as far as it could. We knew going in that it was going to be tough, but our guys fought hard and gave it all they had.”
In fact, the Panthers were making their first appearance in a final, an obvious counterpoint to the Cougars claiming their seventh state crown in 11 tries.
Nevertheless, after goals by senior midfielder Lucas Hurlburt, senior attackman Quinn McLaughlin and junior midfielder Nick Nikola to open the contest gave Fallston a 3-0 lead, Perryville senior attackmen Vinnie Muscella and Luke Roberts and senior midfielder Evan Beynon responded in kind to forge a brief stalemate.
The Cougars then went on a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach before Muscella netted his second goal of the game for the Panthers.
The 12-goal mercy rule was invoked after another Nikola goal at the 7:04 mark of the third quarter to make it, 17-5, with the clock running for the rest of the game.
Even so, Perryville kept hustling while Fallston eventually emptied its bench.
Fallston coach Patrick Mull said that he thought his team would have enough returning talent to contend for its second title in three years.
“We thought we could get back on this stage and get the win,” he said.
Being the heavy favorite in the game did not deter the Cougars from playing hard, he said.
“We don’t focus on our opponent,” Mull continued. “We play against ourselves and the standards we set for ourselves, rather than our opponent. That’s been our mantra all year long. Do what we do and do the best that we can.”
Nikola, who was not listed among the top Cougar scorers, had a game-best five goals and added an assist for good measure.
Team points leader MacMillan added to his impressive seasonal totals, finishing his junior campaign with 21 goals and 53 assists after scoring once with three feeds.
Meanwhile, Hurlburt’s two scores gave him a team-leading 47 goals for the season and senior face-off maestro Aiden Dixon won 15 more draws to complete a season in which he prevailed at the ‘X’ nearly 80 percent of the time.
Dixon said that he was not complacent entering the game.
“I always think that my opponent is going to be good,” he said.
He added that the Cougars were not worried when the Panthers fought back early.
“We just had to keep our head in the game,” he said
Perryville junior goalie Daniel Hickling was outstanding between the pipes for the Panthers, making 10 saves while under a ton of pressure from a bevy of Fallston marksmen.
CLASS 1A STATE BOYS LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Mustang Stadium/Stevenson University
FALLSTON 19, PERRYVILLE 8
Fallston 7 6 6 0 — 19
Perryville 3 1 2 2 — 8
Goals: Fallston-Lucas Hurlburt 2, Ian Swartzendruber 3, Quinn McLaughlin 3, Nick Nikola 5, Gage McKenna, Greg Hoer 2, Jacob MacMillan; Perryville-Evan Beynon, Michael Young, Vinnie Muscella 3, Luke Roberts 3.
Assists: Fallston-Lucas Hurlburt 2, Quinn McLaughlin,Jacob MacMillan 3, Nick Nikola; Perryville-Vinnie Muscella.
Saves: Fallston-Landon Mills 4; Perryville-Daniel Hickling 8.