No. 1 McDonogh’s dream scenario unfolded early in a 14-5 romp over second-ranked Calvert Hall in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference lacrosse championship game Friday night at Loyola University’s Ridley Athletic Center.
The top-seeded Eagles could not have been more precise, poised or on-point in the first quarter in front of a big crowd in Northwest Baltimore, exploding for eight unanswered goals while the defense blanked the Cardinals’ usually reliable offense.
Sophomore attackman Brendan Millon had five goals and an assist for McDonogh (19-1 overall), and Ben Firlie and Luke Miller each provided hat-tricks. Syracuse University recruit Wyatt Hottle and Ryan Botek each finished with two goals for Calvert Hall.
Sparked by arguably the most dominant start in MIAA A finals’ history, McDonogh, ranked No. 2 in the nation by Inside Lacrosse and USA Lacrosse, led wire-to-wire to complete a back-to-back in the nation’s toughest high school boys lacrosse league. The Eagles are the third team to pull the feat in the league’s 28-year history, joining Calvert Hall (2017-19) and Loyola Blakefield (2007-08).
“To go back-to-back in a league with this much talent is unreal,” said Brendan Millon. “I can’t believe it. I’m just so proud of us.”
He started the onslaught, converting a feed from Miller, a junior attackman. A little over a minute later, junior midfielder Andrew Kasten followed suit before Firlie ripped in the first of his three goals with just over seven minutes remaining in the opening period.
The Cardinals’ nightmare continued when Miller rammed in a shot shortly after senior Zach Hayashi’s face-off win and Brendan Millon added two more quick strikes before Miller’s laser with three seconds left built the lead to 7-0. Firlie pumped in another goal, making it, 8-0, early in the second quarter.
In the 2013 title game, Boys’ Latin put Loyola in a 6-0 hole. The No. 6 seed Dons rallied to stun the top-seed and undefeated Lakers, 10-9, in arguably the greatest upset in MIAA A finals history.
Friday, the No. 2 seed Cardinals responded with goals by senior midfielders Botek, Hottle and Joe Dugan to make it, 8-3. The Towson school was seeking to halve the deficit when an untimely turnover gave possession back to the Eagles.
Firlie found the back of the net with 24 second left in the half. McDonogh essentially put the game away early in the third period when Brendan Millon’s behind-the-backer off a feed from his older brother, McCabe, preceded his game-high fifth goal.
McCabe, is the nation’s No. 1 senior bound to the University of Virginia. Brendan is arguably the No. 1 player in the Class of 2025.
Brendan said playing on the biggest stage, like Friday, is something he embraces.
“I wear a shirt every game (with the saying) ‘pressure is a privilege,’” the younger Millon said. “I just try to flip it, and not let it attack me.”
His connection with his older sibling is something he cherishes, Brendan Millon continued.
“It’s always great when I feed him and he scores, and he feeds me and I score,” the star added.
Senior long-stick midfielder Mac Christmas’ rocket after a great save by McDonogh sophomore goalie Aiden Seibel pushed the cushion to a commanding 12-3 in the third quarter.
Calvert Hall coach Bryan Kelly said that his team was used to being behind, and didn’t panic after McDonogh’s opening salvo.
“We thought we had a chance to get back in it until there were about four minutes left,” he said. “We didn’t panic. But (McDonogh) just has so much talent — they’re really a great team.”
“We just didn’t do a lot of the things we normally do tonight,” Kelly added. “But we had a great year.”
Turnovers were a problem for the Cardinals (12-5) during the Eagles’ first-quarter blitz, and when they did have opportunities to score against a defense led by senior Navy commit AJ Marsh, their shots missed the mark.
“In my opinion, AJ Marsh is the best player in our league, if not the country,” McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner said. “He has been absolutely tremendous. He does everything for us and I don’t know how we’re going to replace him. He’s just been incredible.”
Later in the game, Calvert Hall had a couple of point-blank chances that were either mishandled or stuffed by Seibel (7 saves). Seibel, a talented sophomore who went into goal in the second half of McDonogh’s lone loss at Loyola Blakefield - a game the Eagles rallied to tie in the fourth quarter after trailing by nine goals - didn’t lose a game after taking over as a starter the following game.
Hilgartner added that the difference between the Eagles’ 9-7 victory over the Cardinals during the regular season and the win in the title game Friday was having better offensive sets.
“Our half-field offense was much, much better than it was in the first game,” he said. “To beat a good Calvert Hall team like we did (tonight), you can’t beat the feeling.”
“(We had) just good energy They felt really well prepared and we got over the hump of beating BL (Boys’ Latin, 8-7, on McCabe Millon’s goal in OT) in a semifinal when we played kind of tight. We flew around, and we were definitely in attack mode in that first quarter — and that made a big difference for us.”
With the win, the Eagles tied Calvert Hall and Boys’ Latin for the most MIAA A Conference crowns with five.
“The leadership that we had this year with our seniors was so incredible,” said Hilgartner, who won his third MIAA A title since 2016. “We were very driven this year to get out and chase it, and defend it.”
MIAA A CONFERENCE LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIP
at Ridley Athletic Complex, Loyola University
NO. 1 MCDONOGH 14, NO. 2 CALVERT HALL 5
Calvert Hall 0 3 1 1 — 5
McDonogh 7 2 3 2 — 14
Goals: Calvert Hall - Wyatt Hottle 2, Ryan Botek 2, Joe Duggan; McDonogh - Brendan Millon 5, Andrew Kasten, Ben Firlie 3, Luke Miller 3, McCabe Millon, Mac Christmas
Assists: Calvert Hall - Shuey Kelly 2, Nick Steele; McDonogh - Luke Miller 2, Brendan Millon, McCabe Millon 3
Saves: Calvert Hall - Alex Swartz 7; McDonogh - Aiden Seibel 7