The Langley High boys’ lacrosse team played an overall solid game last Friday night in its Liberty District tournament title match against W.T. Woodson. And the results were big time for the Saxons, who defeated the Cavaliers, 8-3, for there first district championship since 2003.
The postseason contest took place on Madison High’s turf field in Vienna.
Many positive factors stood out in Langley’s finals game win. But most vital of them all might have been the team’s shutdown defense that held the talented Woodson offense to three tallies on the night.
"My defense, I can’t say enough about them," said Langley coach Earl Brewer. "To hold a team like Woodson to three goals…"
Langley proved triumphant despite playing without three key players, including District Defensive Player of the Year Brett Burnette, a senior. Also missing the title match were senior attack Greg Bentz, the Saxons’ leading scorer this spring, and senior midfielder Tim Goeke. Both Burnette and Goeke will be out of Langley’s next game – a first round Northern Region playoff game against West Springfield – later this week, although Bentz will be back in the lineup.
It’s a testimony to Langley’s overall strong roster and depth that the Saxons still were able to garner the finals game victory even without some of their top players.
Brewer, a longtime lacrosse coach, will always remember the moments prior to the conclusion of Friday night’s game and the all-out joy he saw expressed from his players.
"I was looking at the sideline at the kids and their faces, and I saw some of the parents’ faces [in the stands]," said Brewer. "It feels great. In 27 years of coaching, I can’t think of a better moment."
<b>LANGLEY</b> (11-3 record) had lost to Woodson in the two teams’ regular season meeting earlier this spring. But the Saxons, in the title game meeting, dominated in face-offs throughout the contest. As a result, Langley controlled the possession advantage and seemed to regularly win control of the ball on face-offs following Saxon goals. Woodson just could not get into any type of real rhythm on offense because the Saxons always seemed to have possession.
Brewer credited senior midfielders Jon Hofgard and Owen Masters for winning a majority of the face-offs, allowing Langley to dictate the game’s tempo.
"Both of those guys really dominated on face-offs," said Brewer, of the All-District caliber duo. "We’d score a goal and then we’d win the face-off [and retain possession]. We did a great job on face-offs."
Masters also contributed two goals in the win. Langley junior attack Ryan Ningard led the Saxons’ offensive charge with three goals, and junior midfielder Alex Devlin added two.
Langley carried a 4-2 lead into the half. Woodson scored the first goal of the second half to get within 4-3. At that point, it was anybody’s game.
But the Saxons received a key boost when senior midfielder Ken Bickel, who had not scored a goal all year, found the net to put the Saxons up 5-3.
That score brought an eruption of cheers from the Langley sideline. The Saxons were thrilled by the huge play from the unselfish Nickel and for what the goal did for their chances of winning.
"He’s not a great goal scorer, but he’s a team type of guy," said Brewer, of Nickel’s under-the-radar contributions to the team. "That goal was huge, it gave us a spark. The guys were jumping up and down. I really think that was the turning point of the game."
Indeed, Langley never looked back thereafter as the Saxons netted the game’s next three scores to Woodson’s none.
Langley junior goalie Galen Kuney, a First Team All-District player, had 11 saves and earned the victory in the net.
Coach Brewer marvels at the perseverance and overall character of his championship team.
"One of the keys for us is that the guys truly wanted to win and truly believed in each other," he said.