Southern’s quick 3-0 start foils Kent’s bid for region title

WORTON — Southern-Anne Arundel scored on its first four shots, bolting out to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 that proved to be insurmountable in the championship game of the Class 1A East Region II boys lacrosse tournament here on May 13.

Junior Charlie Haley and senior Jordan Fanzo each scored five goals from attack to carry the third-seeded Bulldogs past their top-seeded hosts from Kent County High School, 17-7.

Haley did all his scoring in the opening 24 minutes as Southern (6-9) jumped out in front, 11-3.

“We talked about what we would need to do; we watched film. We thought we had everything prepared,” KCHS head coach Tom Speakman said.

“Southern came out harder than I saw at Bo Manor,” Speakman said of the region semifinal game on May 10 — a 17-6 Southern win — that he scouted.

“But I’m not going to make excuses. We started the game off flat-footed,” added Speakman ’92, wrapping up his fourth year at alma mater KCHS.

Haley’s left-handed shot with only 47 seconds elapsed found the back of the net to give Southern a lead it would never relinquish.

Senior midfielder Mikey McNiell with a quick-stick made it 2-0 just 46 seconds later.

The Bulldogs extended the spread to 3-0 — on just their third shot — with 8 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

Kent County’s first shot produced its first goal, senior Martin Parrish unassisted at the 7:19 mark.

Southern, Parrish and then Southern again, in that order, made it 5-2 with 1:17 to play in the first frame.

The Bulldogs had another shot ricochet off the top of the pipe with 25 seconds to go.

Southern opened the second-quarter scoring with three unanswered goals, part of a larger 7-1 run that bridged the first and second quarters and upped the lead to 11-3 at intermission.

Senior Landon Wallace’s man-up goal with 4:55 remaining in the half, a laser shot from the right side that keeper Colton Ramey (14 saves) could not stop, halted a scoreless stretch of 12:33 for the Trojans.

By halftime, six Bulldogs had found the scoring column, led by Haley with five goals and junior attackman Jett Seymour with a pair.

Parrish had two goals, both unassisted, and Wallace had the Trojans’ other goal on a helper from junior Ethan Clark.

David Daniels was credited with six saves.

Kent County won six face-offs, and Southern won nine.

The scoring-challenged Trojans started the second half up two men, but were unable to get off a shot during that advantage, and Ramey denied senior Will Speakman at the doorstep shortly after both sides were all even.

Soon after, with only 1:49 gone in the third quarter, Clark, unassisted, solved Ramey.

Thirty seconds later, on another good look at the cage, Clark from close range was stopped by Ramey.

Southern asserted itself with the next four goals, increasing its lead to 15-4 when Fanzo went top shelf with 2:42 remaining in the third quarter.

Wallace’s bounce shot eluded Ramey at 1:07, but by the end of the quarter Southern had regained its 11-goal lead, 16-5.

Speakman (4:39) and Clark (19.7) closed out the scoring for the Trojans.

Parrish, Clark and Wallace each finished with two goals.

Clark and Jack Fry had assists

Daniels was credited with 11 saves, matching his career best.

Kent County, looking to finish above .500 for the first time since the 15-2 campaign of 2004, ended the season at 7-7.

Focusing only on the win-loss record diminishes all that was accomplished, especially since six of the seven losses were to larger Class 2A schools

“It was a great season, and they have nothing to be ashamed of,” coach Speakman said in an interview on the field immediately after the game.

“We had baseball and soccer players, wrestlers and track kids who showed up for the first time and contributed,” Speakman said of players like senior Brady Sutton, a lacrosse novice who won seven face-offs in the region championship game.

Freshmen Tucker Ervin, Gabe Parr and Colin Fry “were plunked right into varsity lacrosse and did one helluva job,” their coach said.

Tom Speakman gave the biggest shout-out to the seniors, who leave the program in a much better place than they found it — going 0-8, 4-9, 4-8 and ultimately 7-7.

He took over as coach in the middle of the winless 2021 campaign when there was a turnover in leadership, and rescued a program that might otherwise have folded.

The seniors include Will Speakman (Bridgewater) and Landon Wallace (Neumann) who have committed to play lacrosse in college, and Martin Parrish (Salisbury) who has committed to play soccer.

Ben Loller, a starting close defenseman, is the Class of 2024 valedictorian and will attend Brown University in the fall.

“It’s been a helluva ride, and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Tom Speakman said. “I’ve been blessed to be a part of their story, their journey.”

“I wasn’t ready for it to end,” he said.

NOTES: The regions were shuffled this year, leading to changes that included Southern going to the East Region II from the South Region I, where the Bulldogs were the champs in a 13-4 campaign in 2023. 

The Bulldogs’ 4-8 regular-season record was misleading as they played a mostly Anne Arundel County schedule against larger schools.

In the Class 1A quarterfinals, Perryville, which won its third straight East Region I title, eliminated Southern, 11-7.

Liberty (9-8) ousted Perryville (12-3) in the semifinal round, 14-8, scoring a season-high number of goals.

Fallston (14-3) routed Liberty, 15-2, for the Class 1A state championship on May 22 at Stevenson University. 

Fallston won its second state title in as many years, and third in the last four years.

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