No. 2 Cardinals stop Boys’ Latin for MIAA A lacrosse title repeat; Mitchell scores 3 goals (VIDEO HERE!)

by Derek Toney

Calvert Hall College lacrosse team knew the challenge. No team had won consecutive MIAA A Conference championship in a decade, and the burden was bestowed on the Cardinals after a perfect run through the nation’s toughest league last spring.

This spring was far from perfect for The Hall. Actually, it was a trying journey.

Friday evening, there were tears of joy. No. 2 Calvert Hall defeated fourth-ranked Boys’ Latin School, 8-6, in the MIAA A final at Towson University’s Unitas Stadium.

Junior midfielder Grant Mitchell scored three goals for the Cardinals (16-3 overall), and Jack Sawyer and Daniel Kelly each added two goals and an assist. Brendan Grimes finished with two goals and two assists for Boys’ Latin (14-5).

The Hall methodically pulled away late in the second half, becoming the first team since Loyola Blakefield (2007 and 2008) to go back-to-back as MIAA A champs. It’s the fourth MIAA A championship overall for the Towson school, and its first repeat since 1971 and 1972 when Dick Edell manned the sidelines for the MSA (Maryland Scholastic Association) A champions.

Edell, who went on to coach the University of Maryland after stops at the University of Baltimore and West Point, died earlier this month from pneumonia. He suffered from inclusion body myositis, a degenerative muscle disease that confined him to a wheelchair in the later years of his life.

In the post-game huddle Friday, Cardinals coach Bryan Kelly dedicated the victory to Edell and the two men closest to his squad: Dave Huntley and Harry Ilardo.

Huntley, a longtime Hall assistant and a National Lacrosse Hall of Famer who starred at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1970s, died of a heart attack shortly before Christmas.

Ilardo, whose son Peter, is a senior captain, lost his battle with cancer Wednesday, hours before Calvert Hall’s semifinal with Loyola Blakefield.

Bryan Kelly knew his team’s fortitude would carry them.

“I felt it was a God thing, he’s helped walk me through this and these kids have helped me through a lot,” said Bryan Kelly.

“We’re built for adversity and we had it all season,” said Mitchell.

The consensus favorite entering the spring with one of the nation’s best collection of scorers, the Cardinals were disjointed at times.

After a frustrating performance at Boys’ Latin (8-5 loss in late April), Calvert Hall found its 2017 groove, running crisp sets, moving without ball, leading to better shots.

“When we get through X, it get us in a rhythm,“ said Hall senior midfielder Jacob Kelly, the team’s psuedo-point guard. “Without that game we wouldn’t had seen it because we were terrible at it. We had nothing offensively.”

It was much different Friday. After BL struck immediately with Payton Giberson taking the opening face-off and finding Brendan Grimes, Calvert Hall scored five of the next six goals. The run included a tie-breaking extra-man score from Peter Illardo.

llardo, who will say a final goodbye to his father Monday, was the first person to kiss the championship plaque and cut the net.

“I just played for him and I know he’s watching,” said Illardo. “Winning a championship is crazy and doing it twice is awesome.”

Leading 5-4 at halftime, Calvert Hall got an unassisted goal from Sawyer midway through the third quarter. Late in the fourth, the Cardinals converted an extra-man goal as Daniel Kelly finished a pass from brother Jacob.

Mitchell, who’s committed to Ohio State University, powered his way through BL’s defense and beat goalie Chris Brandau with 2:37 left in regulation, and the celebration started for the Cardinals and their faithful under a light steady rain.

The Hall fired 40 shots at Chris Brandau (10 saves), arguably the league’s best goalie who shut down top-seed and No. 1 McDonogh School in Tuesday’s semifinal.

“They played zone and mixed it up a lot so it was hard to get into a flow,” said Bryan Kelly. “I thought our patience was good, but overall it was a great effort and held on when we needed to.”

BL received two goals from Brendan Crouse, whose unassisted strike with 1:19 left in the first half provided momentum going in the second half. But the Lakers didn’t score again until Basil Aburn’s extra-man score with 1:31 remaining in regulation.

Boys’ Latin coach Brian Farrell said it was difficult playing from behind.

“They got up early on us. We did a good job of battling back in the second quarter. A couple of goals here, a couple of goals there…I think our guys battled the whole time,” said Farrell. “It was a heck of an effort by Calvert Hall.”

The Cardinals had only Thursday to prepare after helping teammate Illardo deal with his father passing and playing Loyola Blakefield Wednesday afternoon in the other semifinal. The match was originally scheduled for Tuesday evening but was cancelled because of heavy rain and thunderstorms.

“We’re built for it, nothing has been easy this year,” said Bryan Kelly. “These guys fought through a lot of pain and a lot of tears.”

In the end, The Hall is again the last team standing in MIAA A lacrosse.

“I wanted it so bad and I know everyone on this team wanted it,” said Illardo after hugging his mother. “I couldn’t gotten through this season without those guys. They supported me every single day.”

“It’s been the most rewarding season for me, it’s been the most painful and emotional season for me,” said Bryan Kelly, who completed his 23rd season at his alma mater. “I tell the kids if you look at the Grand Canyon it’s dry at top, at the depths of the Grand Canyon, where there’s pain and hard times in your life, that’s where life and water come. We have grown through the pain and we have grown through the trials, and that made us better.”

MIAA A Conference lacrosse championship

at Unitas Stadium

No. 2 Calvert Hall College 8, No. 4 Boys’ Latin School 6

Boys’ Latin 1 3 0 2- 6

Calvert Hall 2 3 1 2 -8

Goals: Boys’ Latin – Grimes 2, Crouse 2, Aburn, Smith; Calvert Hall – Mitchell 3,  Sawyer 2, D. Kelly 2, Ilardo

Assists: Boys’ Latin – Giberson 2, Grimes 2; Calvert Hall – J. Kelly 2, D. Kelly, Sawyer

Saves: Boys’ Latin – Brandau 10; Calvert Hall – Darragh 6

Shots: Boys’ Latin 22; Calvert Hall 40

Faceoffs: Boys’ Latin 11 (Giberson); Calvert Hall 7 (Cottone 4; McPartland 3)

Clears: Boys’ Latin 3-of-3; Calvert Hall 8-of-8

Extra-man opportunities: Boys’ Latin 1-of-1; Calvert Hall 2-of-3

Groundballs: Boys’ Latin 20; Calvert Hall 24

Turnovers: Boys’ Latin 12; Calvert Hall 10