For the second time in 2012, Highland Park traveled north to the Episcopal School of Dallas. Also for the second time in 2012, the Scots were unable to hold a fourth quarter lead. The first meeting ended 11-10 in favor of the Eagles. This time, however, in a must-win game, the Highland Park defense was able to force overtime with the score tied at seven. Once they did, one offensive possession was all the Scots needed to secure a playoff spot in the hunt for the State Championship while simultaneously ending ESD’s season.
One minute and forty seconds into the extra period, Highland Park attackman Bryce Green notched his second assist of the night when he found fellow junior Grayson Graham for the game winning goal. It was Graham’s only shot of the game, but it was clearly the biggest taken by any player. The second biggest shot of the game was taken by ESD junior Jack Blair. His jump shot found the back of the net with only 16.9 seconds left, completing a fourth quarter comeback to force overtime.
Highland Park came out of the gate hot, rushing to a 4-1 first quarter lead. Captain Daniel Wenz opened the scoring for the Scots with an unassisted goal just over two minutes into the game. On the defensive end, Highland Park’s poles played well, forcing a few turnovers and making the Eagles talented attack unit pass off to midfielders for shots. A few possessions later, the Scots scored again when ESD left the crease undefended. Green made a feed from X to a wide open Grayson Miller for the finish at the 6:16 mark. ESD answered quickly with a Jack Beare goal. With just over three minutes left, Scots midfielder Domenic Massimilian converted a high-to-high shot from 15 yards to make it a 3-1 game. Eagle midfielder Hayden Wilson drove from X in an attempt to cut the lead again, but goalie Matthew Meaders was there for the save. The Eagle defense left the crease unguarded again, and Miller returned the favor to Green for Highland Park’s fourth goal. The Scots controlled much of the possession in that opening quarter, incurring a couple of stall warnings for their patient offensive rotations.
A few minutes into the second quarter, the Scots extended their lead with another Massimilian goal. The teams traded possessions before ESD’s Blair netted his first goal to make it a 5-2 game, forcing a Highland Park timeout. Blair continued to make plays for the Eagles, drawing a penalty on an aggressive drive to the net as the second quarter neared its midway point. On the subsequent extra-man opportunity, Richie Loftus took a feed from Barrett Anigian and buried a high bounce shot that just snuck under the post. The Eagle offense, now settled in, began to generate better scoring chances. Meaders made a nice save on an attempt from Wilson, but the Eagles pulled to within one on Blair’s second goal. The junior attackman drove from X and fooled the defense with a pass fake that opened up a seam for him to slip into and score. Highland Park was able to gain possession off the following draw hold for the final shot of the half. Wills Manley fed Green for his second goal of the half with only six seconds left. The Scots took that 6-4 lead into the half.
Each team scored once in the third quarter. ESD drew within a goal on a broken play near the nine minute mark. The Eagles came up with a loose ball near the sideline boxes and a quick feed down to Loftus, and over to Beare set up a point blank finish. Highland Park regained the two goal differential when Logan Simmons completed a cross-crease pass to Manley for the goal. ESD had a chance to answer when the Scots were flagged for an illegal body check, but the Highland Park defense forced an early turnover and killed the penalty in the offensive end. The quarter ended with the visiting Scots up 7-5.
The first half of the fourth quarter passed by without much incident. The teams traded fruitless extra man opportunities and ESD’s possessions still seemed to be frustratingly short at times. The Scots were in the midst of another stall warning on offense when goalie Ham Berry made a great save and started a transition opportunity with a timely clear. Hayden Wilson ended up with the ball, and this time, a quick possession for the Eagles paid off. Wilson scored with just over five minutes to go, and ESD again found themselves within a goal. Highland Park had possession of the ball with under two minutes to play, but they ran the ball outside the box and gave possession back to ESD. The Scot defense was able to force a turnover with under a minute left, but they never maintained possession and ESD was able to call timeout with 33 seconds remaining.
Blair’s tying goal followed off of the stoppage, but the Eagles never had another offensive possession. Blair finished with the game’s only hat trick. Grayson Graham’s winning goal in overtime punched Highland Park’s ticket to the Super Regionals at Hillcrest this weekend. In terms of statistics, this contest was close in nearly every facet of the game. Highland Park recovered 22 ground balls to ESD’s 20. They outshot the Eagles 28-27. Each team only failed one clear. Meaders recorded seven saves to Berry’s six. The ultimate edge was face-offs. Highland Park won 10 of 17, including the ever-important draw at the beginning of OT.
After the game, Highland Park coach Derek Thomson noted his team’s ability to persevere through a long season. “We’ve played a very tough schedule, six or seven one-goal games, so the kids are battle-tested. We’re fortunate to get this opportunity, having barely made the postseason, and I’m glad the kids made the most of it.”
The Scots’ Bryce Green led all scorers with four points (2g, 2a), and he credited the coaching staff for preparing the team to win. “We worked hard all week, watching film some nights until 10 p.m. That allowed us to come in here knowing exactly what we had to do. Our seniors deserve a lot of credit tonight. Nobody gets points without someone else doing the right thing too.”
Highland Park will face a tough Woodlands squad on Saturday. The Scots lost to the South District runners-up 8-6 last month.
In the other North District Playoff game, Plano West upset Coppell 6-4, also avenging a loss from earlier in the season. The Wolves will travel to Houston this weekend to face Westwood, hoping to beat the Warriors again after edging them 8-7 a month ago.
Andrew Githens, North District Contributor for Texas Heat Lacrosse. www.texasheatlacrosse.com is the source for all things lacrosse in Texas.