As the final 40 seconds ticked in Loyola Blakefield’s lacrosse victory over St. Paul’s School Friday afternoon, a group of Crusaders student in the stands at Tullai Field started chanting “Thank you Broc!”
After getting congratulatory handshakes from Don players and coaches, Rick Brocato gave the last postgame talk to his team. Moments later, a Crusader player broke down in tears as he hugged Brocato.
There won’t be a storybook ending for No. 5 St. Paul’s and Brocato after a 9-4 loss to sixth-ranked Loyola in a MIAA A Conference quarterfinal in steamy Brooklandville. Freshman Jack Koras scored three goals for the Dons and Phil Wies and Robbie Olsen each tallied twice.
Loyola (8-8 overall) will take on top-seed and top-ranked Calvert Hall College in a MIAA A final four match at Homewood Field Monday. The other semifinal will feature defending champ McDonogh School and No. 3 Boys’ Latin School in the second meeting this spring of last year’s final participants.
The Dons get an opportunity to redeem themselves after an embarrassing loss in last year’s semifinals. After starting MIAA A play with a disappointing showing at St. Paul’s last month, Loyola brought an end to Brocato’s run at St. Paul’s.
“Coach Brocato is one of the finest men I’ve ever been around in coaching. What a heck of a career,” said Dons second-year Ben Rubeor. “I hope to enjoy part of the success he’s had.”
Brocato, who started at St. Paul’s as an assistant in the 1988-89 season, spent 17 seasons as Crusaders head coach, winning the title in the nation’s toughest boys’ lacrosse league in 2010. He became the program’s winningest coach this season (239-109 final coaching record at St. Paul’s).
Brocato, the epitomy of class, hugged his wife as his players slowly departed Tullai Field.
“My wife said it best: I’m not in it for the wins, I’m in it for the boys, I’m in it for this program,” said Brocato, who will be succeeded by former player and current McDonogh School assistant Trey Whitty. “I’ve been honored to be a part of St. Paul’s. I’ll be their biggest fan moving forward and I love these kids, win or lose.”
The Crusaders (14-6), looking to give Brocato one final trip to iconic Homewood Field, didn’t lack effort, battling back from an early two-goal. But inconsistent play and a motivated Loyola squad was too much for St. Paul’s.
“We tried to tell our guys they’re [Loyola] a team playing with a lot of confidence lately. They’re a physical group,” said Brocato. “I think the first game we did the same thing to them and they turned the tables. This was a game that was won the between the lines.”
The Crusaders trailed by two goals in the first quarter, but got even at 3 after Troy Barthelme’s strike off a pass from senior Keegan Pearl with 5 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third. Less than 40 seconds later, Koras put bounced a shot past St. Paul’s goalie Alex Rode.
St. Paul’s gained an one-minute extra-man opportunity, but turned the ball over. The Crusaders later missed on a 30-second man-up chance.
Rode (eight saves), the MIAA A lone representative for next month’s Under Armour All-American game, made a nice drop-stop. The ball landed several yards away where Reid gained possession, worked his way back in and scored, putting Loyola up, 5-3, with 2.9 seconds left in the third.
“Our coaches really harp on making hustle plays and I felt like we needed a big one,” said Reid. “I was going to do anything to get us momentum.”
Loyola tacked on four scores – two from Phil Wies and individual tallies from Robbie Olsen and Koras – for a commanding 9-3 advantage with 3:40 left in regulation. Towson University-bound goalie Jake Stout finished with 12 saves as the Dons avenged a 9-4 decision at Tullai Field to start league play last month.
Rubeor was impressed with his team’s focus after a 75-minute delayed start because of lightning.
“I thought we finished tremendously in the second half,” said Rubeor. “I thought we had guys like Jack Koras, Robbie Olson, Colin Quinn stepped up today.”
The Dons will get another shot at Calvert Hall, which got a goal in the final second Tuesday to beat Loyola and complete a perfect regular league season. Last year, the Dons suffered one of the worst defeats in MIAA A playoff history, a 20-6 loss to McDonogh at Homewood Field.
“It definitely left a sting, and on Tuesday, we lost to Calvert Hall,” said Reid. “We’re going to be fired up.”
Though the end came sooner than hoped, the ever-positive Brocato kept things in perspective.
“You’re in it for the kids, you ain’t in it for the money or the accolades,” said Brocato. “You’re in it for the kids and helping them grow up to be men and deal with times like this.”
MIAA A Conference quarterfinal
No. 6 Loyola Blakefield 9, No. 5 St. Paul’s School 4
Goals: Loyola – Koras 3, Wies 2, Olsen 2, Bateman, Reid; St. Paul’s – Pearl, Zimnoch, Barthelme, Gaeger
Assists: Loyola – Bateman 2, Dunn; St. Paul’s – Posner, Pearl
Saves: Loyola – Stout 12; St. Paul’s – Rode 8
Loyola 2 1 2 4 – 9
St. Paul’s 1 1 1 1 – 4