After a slow start in the first quarter, Havre de Grace junior goalie Liam Whitehead came alive for the rest of the game against C. Milton Wright on Wednesday afternoon to finish with 14 saves.
As good as Whitehead was later in the game, especially in a remarkable showing in the first overtime, he was unable to hold off senior Mustang midfielder Hudson Welsh in the second overtime. That’s when the Ohio Northern University commit rocketed in his fourth goal of the game to give C. Milton Wright a hard-earned 7-6 victory in the Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference Chesapeake Division showdown.
Both goalies — senior Drew Maras had 13 saves for the Mustangs (4-2, 4-0 UCBAC Chesapeake) — were sensational in the low-scoring affair, although Whitehead took things to another level in the initial extra session.
He snuffed three C. Milton Wright shots before blocking a final blast from the doorstep as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock.
Maras pulled off a miraculous save of his own with just over 10 minutes left in regulation from point-blank range to keep a 6-6 deadlock intact and set up a dramatic finish. C. Milton Wright was having its way with Whitehead in the first quarter while jumping to a 3-0 advantage on two goals by Welsh and one by senior midfielder Aaron Clark.
”I wasn’t seeing the ball well in the first quarter,” said Whitehead, recently named the Most Outstanding Defensive Player in the recent Havre de Grace Warriors Varsity Boys Lacrosse Tournament. “I was nervous. But I had to step up for my teammates. It was ‘see the ball, save the ball.’”
His improvement in the second quarter was commensurate with the Warriors’ offense picking up steam as well, with junior midfielder Wyatt Molyneux finding the net twice and freshman midfielder Logan Rogers and junior attackman Cole Bravo adding single tallies to take a 4-3 halftime lead.
Wright went on another 3-0 run to open the third quarter as Welsh ripped in a left-handed rocket and junior attackman Justin Eckman and junior attackman Gavin Morris also solved Whitehead to put the visitors back on top, 6-4.
Molyneux cut the lead to 6-5 late in the third quarter and freshman attackman Garrett Gladfelter tied it early in the final period for Havre de Grace (6-1, 1-1), setting up a defensive standoff for the rest of the quarter and both overtimes.
That is, until Welsh ended the game on a sizzling shot to the upper right corner.
He said that the play started after Maras made a save and Mustang sophomore defender Kyle Ashman bolted with the ball toward the other end of the field.
”Our goalie, Drew Maras, was standing on his head the whole game,” he said. “It was a great play by our pole, who gave it to a middle, Justin Eckman, and he got me for the cut. I had the easy job. All I had to do was step in and shoot.”
Welsh said that coach Andi Lebrun and his staff had prepared the Wright players for a Havre de Grace team that has developed into a formidable opponent.
”We knew they were 6-0,” he said. “They’ve been playing a lot better. They gave us a tough game. Our coach was telling us to be disciplined and that this was not going to be the same type of team we played last year. Every single one of us had to fight, and it just came down to that.”
Having lost the first game of the year to No. 13 Westminster by the same score in overtime, Welsh preferred this ending.
”That one hurt,” he said. “But coming back and being able to do it here, made me feel a lot better.”
Lebrun said that Havre de Grace was well prepared for what the Mustangs like to do.
”Props to Havre de Grace and coach (Jason) Bellamy,” he said. “They did a really good job. They scouted us, they had ways to stop us. Luckily, my guys were able to push through. Their goalie played a phenomenal game. We were putting shots on the cage and throwing fakes, but like Hudson said, their goalie was standing on his head.”
Lebrun said he felt that Maras was also superb between the pipes.
”It seemed like both goalies shook the rust off, and both guys did phenomenal,” he added.
The Warriors also enjoyed a healthy advantage in face-offs, with Rogers garnering 11 draws and Bravo scooping up his fair share as well, forcing Wright to use three long-sticks to even things out in the overtime periods.
Bellamy, who said that his trio has rotated at the position all season, noted that the inability to win ground balls on the defensive end after Whitehouse and his mates made stops hurt the Warriors.
“(Whitehouse) was fantastic,” he said. “He kept us in it. Our midfielders were out of gas. We ran out of legs.”
C. MILTON WRIGHT 7, HAVRE DE GRACE 6, 2OT
CMW 3 0 3 0 0 1 — 7
HDG 0 4 1 1 0 0 — 6
Goals: CMW-Hudson Welsh 4, Gavin Morris, Aaron Clark, Justin Eckman; HDG-Wyatt Molyneux 3, Cole Bravo, Garrett Gladfelter, Logan Rogers.
Assists: CMW-Aaron Clark, Cody Mattox, Cameron Stepp, Justin Eckman; HDG-Garrett Gladfelter, Logan Rogers, Chase Zellman.
Saves: CMW-Drew Maras 13; HDG-Liam Whitehead 14.