Fri, May 10 2013 03:14 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Eastlake Titans made history Wednesday night by becoming the first Metro Conference boys lacrosse team to win 14 league games in one season. The Titans’ 14-0 record gave them sole possession of this year’s Metro title and, in the process, completed a vow begun in the early stages of the season — to win the league championship for a beloved teammate who couldn’t be with them on the historic journey.
Eastlake defeated the three-time defending league champion Otay Ranch Mustangs, 14-10, in an emotion-packed game witnessed by hundreds of spectators. The home side of Stan Canaris Stadium on the EHS campus was nearly filled to draw attention to the significance to the game.
After each Titan goal, the school’s drum line pounded out a loud tribute.
On the field, Eastlake team members ended each timeout with a special cheer for senior co-captain Tommy Henderson. At the end of the game, they faced their fans and, with Henderson’s mother Theresa in the huddle, held their sticks high in triumph.
But this time “league champs!” replaced “Tommy!” as the cheer.
The mission was accomplished.
“So fulfilling, so rewarding,” EHS senior co-captain Casey Stanko said in describing the emotions in the game. “I had no doubt that we would win it, we just got a little flat and had to pick ourselves up.”
Henderson died five games into the season in a swimming pool accident. The Titans dedicated their season to his memory. They haven’t lost a game since — an amazing span of 15 consecutive games.
EHS junior Ryan Hayes said he could feel Henderson’s spirit at Wednesday’s game stronger than in other contests. The back of his helmet sported various decals in homage to Henderson, as well as his own hand-written No. 23 badge signifying Henderson’s jersey number.
“It made me want to play harder,” said Hayes, who collected one goal and three assists. “It made me feel that Tommy was still playing with us, watching us. The championship means a lot. Tommy always wanted to win league … and we’ve done it for him now.”
Henderson’s spirit remained close to the team all season.
Prior to Wednesday’s game, all the Titan seniors were given a special introduction. Henderson’s name was called last. His mother, wearing his jersey, participated in the coin toss with Eastlake’s other two senior co-captains, Stanko and Devon Ballow.
Theresa Henderson was visibly touched after the game. “I was very proud to represent my son,” she said, pausing to collect her own emotions. “From the beginning of the season, his goal was to beat (arch rival) Otay Ranch and win the league title. I feel incredibly honored that both his goals were accomplished.
“I’m so proud of this lacrosse team.”
For much of the game, however, it appeared that the Mustangs would carve out an inspired win of their own. An Otay Ranch victory would have meant the teams would have shared this year’s league banner.
National high school goal-scoring leader Jake Weidner’s goal with 4:35 left to play in the first half gave the visitors a 6-5 lead. The game was tied at six goals apiece at halftime and again at seven goals midway through the third quarter.
A rapid-fire exchange of three goals in a 1:36 span late in the third quarter left the hosts with a tenuous 10-8 lead.
Goals by Hayes, Ballow and Jordan Vicente in the fourth quarter eventually widened the EHS lead to 14-9 with 5:25 to play.
Otay’s A.J. Howes scored the game’s final goal — the last of his game-high seven on the evening.
Stanko and Ballow led the Titans (18-2, with a 16-game winning streak) with four goals each.
Weidner scored twice to give him 109 goals on the season — easily a new school record.
The Mustangs finished regular season play 12-2 in league, 14-6 overall.
Both teams now await playoff seeding.
“They’re a great team — they deserved it,” ORHS coach Doug Murphy said in verbally passing the championship trophy to Eastlake. “We put up a fight but they were the better team. We kept it for three years, now it’s their turn.”
The Hilltop Lancers defeated visiting Francis Parker, 19-4, Wednesday evening to claim the school’s second San Diego Section playoff victory in as many years.
Kasey Simonds led fifth-seeded Hilltop (14-7 overall, 10-0 in league play) with six goals and two assists while teammates Laurel Coleman and Brianna Duplessis added four and three goals, respectively.
The Lancers advance to play at fourth-seeded Mt. Carmel (11-5) in Saturday’s Division I quarterfinals. Game time is 11 a.m.
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