PERRYVILLE — Chris Johnson warned his Perryville boys’ lacrosse team about the danger of a slow start.
The Panthers were hosting a formidable opponent in Havre de Grace and he knew any deficit, no matter how small, would be difficult to overcome.
And it wasn’t a small one. Perryvillle fell behind by six goals in the opening quarter before trailing by nine at halftime.
The Panthers did their best to keep pace the remainder of the night, but suffered a 16-7 elimination loss in the 1A East Region Section II Semifinals.
“As much as I tried to tell them that we can’t start off slow, we started off really slow. It was like we were in another world. [Havre de Grace] came out playing with a lot of energy,” Johnson said. “I told them at halftime, ‘Look, I don’t know what the future holds this next half, but put it all out there. We haven’t played well yet, we’re not playing good lacrosse. Let’s at least go out there and play good lacrosse and let the chips fall where they may. You never know.’ We started rocking there in the third quarter. The defense settled down and played better. In the second half, it was 5-5. I’m proud of the fact that they stepped up and played really hard in the second half.”
Perryville finally found the scoreboard in the opening minutes of the second quarter as Evan Miller dodged to the right and ripped a shot into the bottom-left corner, but the Warriors responded with four more unanswered goals.
Ben Roberts stopped the rally with a goal just seven seconds before halftime, but once again, Havre de Grace was quick to answer. Tommy Meehan won the ensuing face off cleanly, raced down field and tucked an outside shot just below the crossbar with 0.3 seconds on the clock.
The Panthers out-scored Havre de Grace by a goal in the third quarter, but never closed the gap within seven.
Roberts led Perryville with a hat trick, Miller scored twice, Liam Johnson tallied a goal and an assist and Braden Yadlosky added a goal.
Mikey Sweigart and Mitchell Villareal scored five goals apiece to lead the Warriors into Wednesday’s region final against defending 1A state champion Patterson Mill. Meehan and Reagan Dent each scored three goals.
“The seniors have done such a tremendous job with turning this program around. Since the time they came in, a lot of these guys played varsity as freshmen. The fact that they’re coming out with a very good, winning record, freshmen through senior year, is absolutely tremendous. They’ve laid the cornerstone,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some nice, young talent coming in next year and we’ve got some talented guys coming back. It’ll be tough to replace some of these guys – Hunter [Vaughn] is a great defender, Vinny [Gugliotta] is a tremendous goalie, Matt [Woods] is a tremendous offensive player, Liam is a good assist guy. We’re losing a lot of quality talent, so guys have to step up.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig