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Despite the historic Azalea Festival taking place Friday afternoon, the main event at Landon took place on the lacrosse field.
Gonzaga traveled to Bethesda to battle Landon for inter-conference bragging rights and the title of No.1 team in the area. The Bears jumped on the Eagles early and raced out to a 4-0 lead early in the second quarter and appeared to be no match for the Eagles.
Gonzaga had been in this situation before and Eagles head coach Casey O’Neill called a timeout to settle his team. He reminded his upperclassmen of their game against Landon during the 2010 season. In that game Gonzaga was in a 4-0 hole and rallied to win 7-6.
“The guys were getting a little frustrated at first,” O’Neill said. “But two years ago a lot of these veterans were in the same situation and we reminded them of that.”
The speech worked as the Eagles outscored the Bears 7-1 from that point on to give Landon a case of déjà vu as they beat the Bears 7-5 Friday. “Before we played, [we knew] our big games were Prep and Landon,” Eagles’ Connor Reed said. “We’ve been waiting for this game for a while. They played a hell of a game, but we just pulled it out.”
Landon’s senior midfielder Charlie Schnider, senior midfielder Hank Brown, and sophomore middie Jack Falk sparked the 4-0 run to start the game.
But then it was Gonzaga’s junior attacker Patrick Myers that ripped a hard shot to put Gonzaga on the board and stop the Bears run at 4-1, with 10:21 to play in the first half.
On the ensuing possession, Schnider answered with another Landon goal to regain the four-goal advantage.
But it didn’t derail Gonzaga’s rally. The Eagles continued to claw back into the game. Gonzaga tied the match at five with just 17 seconds to go before halftime when junior midfielder Max Planning fired in his first two goals.
“After we tied it up I told those kids that what you just did in the last four to five minutes to tie this up…imagine what you could do with a full 24 [minutes] in the second half,” O’Neill said.
Gonzaga’s vaunted defense allowed no goals in the final half, while the offense scored two more goals and had bad luck wipe out two more potential scores.
On the first near goal, junior midfielder Jimmy Kuzma put the ball in the top corner of the cage, and the ball bounced out. Several photos of the shot, including one in the DCSportsFan gallery, clearly showed a goal. Then, moments later, the Eagles scored a goal, but in Jason Garrett fashion, O’Neill called a timeout just before the goal was counted.
But the two discounted scores didn’t deter the Eagles.
“That timeout--every single time and talking to my coaches-- that’s the right timeout,” O’Neill said. “If he crosses the line, we’re in a dire situation. But of course it’s the parting of the Red Sea there and he runs in. That stuff is going to happen. I was worried for about one second, but I knew our defense would hold them off.”
The Eagles will now enter the WCAC tournament looking to win a third straight title. Landon will wait to see what happens in the first round of the IAC tournament Saturday to see who they play next.
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