A late, seemingly meaningless goal made this lacrosse team’s season

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Coach Bryan Lanham advises his Watkins Mill goalkeepers to jog from the goal until an opponent defends them, so when Oscar Lemus saw an open field at Damascus on Wednesday, he continued jogging.

By the time Lemus reached midfield, Watkins Mill players and coaches processed what was transpiring. Damascus was giving Lemus, whom Lanham said is autistic, a chance to score in his final game. Lemus scored moments later as both teams’ players surrounded him near the top of the crease.

“He had the biggest smile on his face through the entire bus ride home,” Lanham said. “It was so important for him. He was just so happy. It was just radiating out of him.”

In the final minutes of almost every game, Lanham inserts Lemus into goal. Most opponents pass until the game clock expires.

On Wednesday, Damascus was ahead 19-0 in the last five minutes of a first-round playoff game when Lanham told the referees and Hornets coaches Lemus was entering. Damascus coaches and players decided in their huddle they’d allow Lemus to score — an act Lanham never expected.

“You would think that at the end of your season, losing a playoff game, you’re going to be sad and quiet,” said Lanham, whose squad finished 1-12. “Everyone was laughing, having a great time with Oscar. He was talking about it with everyone. He was the king of the moment.”

At 12-0-4, Osbourn enters the postseason in elite company as one of the few undefeated teams remaining in the Northern Virginia area.

Asked to describe what the Eagles have done particularly well this season, Coach Brandon Calandra said it’s hard to define. It changes game to game. The Eagles’ biggest superpower might be their ability to adapt, something the coach says stems from the right pregame mind-set.

“We’ve been consistent as far as our effort and the mental state in which we enter a game,” Calandra said. “Soccer can be different from other sports, where if you’re not mentally prepared, you won’t come ready to play.”

The team was confronted with a midseason test of that mind-set when it played four draws in a row — two before spring break and then two after. It was a weeks-long period of frustration.

“That was our mini slump,” Calandra said. We went through a phase where we just couldn’t finish for whatever reason.”

The coach asked his team to play like the season was on the line, even if its record was still in fine shape.

“I told them it was time to play like this could be our last game,” Calandra said. “Now, we’re a little more urgent when it comes to getting out there.”

Osbourn has won six straight since that stretch and enters the Cedar Run district tournament as the top seed.

Landon and St. Albans battled in a nine-hole playoff match Saturday to determine which team would accompany Georgetown Prep to represent the Interstate Athletic Conference at the Metro championships. Landon won by five strokes, 191-196, and will return to Worthington Manor in Urbana on Tuesday to compete against the Little Hoyas Gonzaga and Paul VI.

On the first hole Saturday, Bears junior John Bates nearly followed up his tee shot with an eagle; his second shot from the fairway hit the bottom of the flagstick and circled the the cup before coming out. Bates knocked in the two-foot putt for birdie and played well over the next eight holes to finish even.

“John was just solid all day long,” Coach Andy Luther said.

Charlie Bundy and Charlie Lynn were close behind their teammate, both shooting a 37 (1 over par). Grant Lester of St. Albans, who on Thursday won the inaugural D.C. State Athletic Association tournament, led all players with a 35 (1 under par) Saturday.

For Old Mill, carrying a 1-0 lead entering the third inning Saturday against Arundel felt all too familiar.

Just five days earlier, the Patriots led by the same score against the Wildcats before being devastated by a nine-run inning.

Now, in the region semifinals, the Patriots started to crumble again against the top-seeded Wildcats. But after losing the lead, Old Mill used clutch hitting to force extra innings, and leadoff man Caelan Witcher started a rally in the ninth to help the Patriots prevail, 6-4.

“You could play that game 100 times and it comes out 50 and 50,” Patriots Coach Charlie Chaffin said.

Old Mill (8-11) has had an unusual year, hindered by defensive inconsistency in the infield as the team has searched for its best lineup. Chaffin has told his players all along that the regular season was the time for them to work out their issues in preparation for the postseason.

And now that the playoffs are upon the Patriots, they are not looking to stop. Next up for the 2019 Maryland 4A champions is a matchup with North County (15-6) on Tuesday for a spot in the state quarterfinals.

Though they were swept in Saturday’s Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference final, the Potomac School Panthers are eager to revive their rivalry with Sidwell Friends.

For years the conference has been a tug-of-war between the two teams, and the Panthers are optimistic their young talent will help them contend again next year.

“The results didn’t go our way, but I thought the whole team showed a lot of poise and a lot of guts to just be out there and fight,” Potomac sophomore Eli Butler said.

Butler, who lost his No. 3 singles match against Demetrios Bezianis, 6-3, 6-3, will try to rebound at this week’s Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament. Potomac will be up against a different group of teams, and Butler believes playing Sidwell will only help the Panthers.

“Going through the MAC tournament is a great preparation for tough matches,” Butler said. “It gives us a real reality check in terms of the competition we’ll be up against. So we don’t have a ton of time to prepare, but that’s going to be in the back of our heads.”

The VISAA tournament finals are scheduled for Saturday. Potomac will aim for its fourth straight title.

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