Ben Smith’s longtime dream had just become a reality, but the Boys’ Latin senior attackman couldn’t quite describe the feeling.
It was been a long road for Smith to stand on the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium with a Lids MIAA champion hat perched on his head and an ear-to-ear smile. The senior attackman guided No. 5 seed Boys’ Latin to its first MIAA championship since 2014 by virtue of a 9-8 win over No. 2 seed Archbishop Spalding. Smith’s second assist of the game, a feed that set up Delaware commit Riar Schell’s goal, stood as the game-winner and the highlight of a three-goal, five-point night.
From a Torn ACL to MIAA Champ
It was a far cry from where Smith, the game’s Offensive MVP, found himself in January of 2020. The skilled Penn commit tore his ACL in a preseason workout, and while he would have missed the season anyway due to COVID, it set him up for a long and arduous recovery process that is as mentally taxing as it is physically.
“Oh my God, it’s what you dream about,” said Smith, the NLF’s No. 47 senior. “Coach has been saying, ‘you dream about it your whole life, and now you get to play in it.’ It’s an opportunity to play and do your thing. We’ve had a lot of adversity. That’s been the talk of this year, adversity. It’s been 12 months and it’s been the worst injury ever. Shoutout to Brandon Huggins at Top Athlete and True Sports, they got me back. Tonight is super special. It’s a lot of practice and preparation. It’s an attitude that you can come back from anything and play your game.”
Smith, a Crabs alum who recently earned a spot in the first Nike National Senior All-Star Game, came up big in his last game as a Laker, particularly so when Boys’ Latin needed him the most. Spalding led, 6-4, early in the second before senior Gavin McClernan (Crabs / Washington & Lee) set up fellow senior Garrett Glatz (Crabs / Navy) for a dunk on the crease.
Fifty-five seconds later, Smith ripped home a bouncer off of a topside sweep. A few minutes later, he uncorked a picturesque lefty hammer into the off-stick top corner off of an alley dodge. For a guy who’s usually at his best working at X as the quarterback of the offense, Smith showed that he can strain a defense from up top, too. That was a counter from the BL coaching staff in response to Spalding’s defense.
“They scouted our gameplan really well. Shoutout to Spalding. I normally play X in one of our offenses, but they scouted that really well, so we went to a 2-2-2 set, kind of, with the two wing dodges. They put me out there on the right wing because they liked my matchup a little bit and the way (Spalding) played picks, so that’s how we executed our game.”
For as good as Smith was offensively, his teammate, Cardin Stoller, was his equal on the back end for the Lakers. The Team 91 Maryland product and Rutgers commit backstopped BL to the title with nine stops, and none of the nine came easily.
Unlike so many times before in the Lakers’ storied championship history, this title came with BL as a significant underdog throughout the postseason. The Lakers won every playoff game by a goal, besting No. 4 Loyola Blakefield 8-7 and top-seeded and NLF No. 1 McDonogh, 13-12, before the finale against Spalding. BL lost to all three teams in the regular season, including a defeat by a touchdown and the extra point against the Eagles. Somehow, they turned it around and thrived in the playoffs’ intense atmosphere.
“We’ve been underdogs all year,” Stoller said. “The whole playoff was teams that we lost to. This is huge for us to beat the teams that beat us. The underdog mentality, we love it.”
Spalding Will be Back
Despite the loss, it marked the first time that Spalding reached the league’s A championship game. Backed by a very strong junior class that features three players in the NLF ’22 top 47 players, the Cavaliers almost came took over a year ahead of schedule. NLF No. 47 Mikey Weisshaar (Towson) was the center piece with three goals and an assist. No. 28 Race Ripley (Navy) dished out two assists and scored once, while No. 21 Alex Ross (Penn State) was a dominant cover man who kept Annapolis Hawks teammate and NLF No. 3 ’22 Dom Pietramala (North Carolina) off the scoresheet.
“We’ve been saying for a while that we hope we can build a legacy for Spalding and keep watching the program grow,” Weisshaar said. “We got the season taken away last year and didn’t take anything for granted this whole year. We’re so hungry to be back next year and the revenge tour starts now.”
BOYS’ LATIN – ARCHBISHOP SPALDING STANDOUTS
Eddie Loyd ’21, defense, Boys’ Latin / FCA / Williams
Loyd led a defense that clamped down on the Cavaliers’ offense in the third quarter and through most of the fourth until the final minute. The Williams-bound senior was everywhere for the Lakers, causing three turnovers in the final frame alone. The best one came when he chopped down on Mikey Weisshaar’s stick, grabbed the tough ground ball and took a big hit after making a good pass to start the clear.
“I think I just actually started listening to the coaches’ gameplan,” Loyd said. “We didn’t really do that in the first half as much and my teammates just put me in a spot where I could make a play. Our plan was to press off on 8 (Weisshaar) and then I could come back and double the ball. I think that was a big part of it. … Once we got to the third quarter, we started to connect and actually slide and that helped slow them down a lot.”
— Matt Chandik (@MChandik26) May 21, 2021
Race Ripley ’22, attack, Archbishop Spalding / Annapolis Hawks / Navy – NLF No. 28 ’22
Previously very lefty-dominant, Ripley has clearly worked hard at diversifying his game and becoming more two-handed. He got Spalding on the board by beating his man from X and finishing a high-to-high righty dunk. That was just one example of his willingness to test defenses with his off-hand.
Always very at ease and poised with the ball in his stick – whether it’s at X or on the wing – he tossed a sick skip pass off of Spalding’s patented flip pass play for an assist on Josh Tang’s (UMBC) second goal of the game. Ripley later added another assist, this time setting up Ryan Schrier’s goal with 44 seconds to play.
Alex Ross ’22, defense, Archbishop Spalding / Annapolis Hawks / Penn State – NLF No. 21 ’22
The tall, athletic lefty was simply marvelous in his matchup with NLF No. 3 ’22 Dom Pietramala (North Carolina). The future Nittany Lion is all too familiar with the Lakers’ sniper from countless battles at Annapolis Hawks practices, and Ross held the explosive Pietramala off the scoresheet. Ross’ footwork and ability to cover so much ground when he moved kept the lefty sniper off-balance. Ross was excellent at matching feet and sitting on Pietramala’s left hand, daring him to go to his right and limiting Pietramala’s Grade A scoring chances.
Cardin Stoller ’22, goalie, Boys’ Latin / Team 91 Maryland / Rutgers
The game’s defensive MVP with nine saves, Stoller was in command early and often. He had a particularly impressive save on a 1v1 opportunity on the back post, took away an impressive Weisshaar low-to-high rip and made a brilliant stop on a Ryan Schrier quick stick on a man-up play. The future Scarlet Knight also made a dazzling stop on Nick Gutierrez to help stymie the Cavaliers’ offense.
“After that first save – for me, all I need one save and I’m good – so after making a couple, I felt really good and I felt comfortable,” Stoller said. “We just played team defense. That’s what we do best. We started talking. When we don’t talk, it shows. We just played our best game and it showed.”
Mikey Weisshaar ’22, midfield, Archbishop Spalding / Annapolis Hawks / Towson – NLF No. 47 ’22
Weisshaar missed the entire 2020 summer with a stress fracture in his back, and that led to him being a little bit of a forgotten man when it came to debating the best players in the 2022 class.
Uh, that won’t happen again. The Towson commit was so dynamic for the Cavaliers, torching the Lakers’ defense from the wing in the first half. His first goal was an absolute bomb up high mere moments after a nearly-identical shot ripped the crossbar and rang out. Weisshaar had a hand in setting up a Nick Gutierrez goal when Stoller couldn’t corral the rebound off of Weisshaar’s initial shot. Later, he added a low-to-low five-hole rip, and it was Weisshaar’s slashing goal down the middle of the Lakers’ defense that trimmed the deficit to 9-8 with 11.4 seconds to go.
Weisshaar’s road to recovery finally got him back on the field last fall, and he had a hand in helping the Baltimore 2022 team cruise to a championship at the inaugural Nike Nationals. He was later named the midfield MVP at the prestigious Project 9 camp, which reintroduced him as one of the class’ top players.
“At first, I was just trying to get back into the swing of things,” Weisshaar said. “I didn’t go full tilt, but it just felt good to be back out there. I got back to it at Project 9 and I just wanted to be back and doing what I knew I could do. It taught me not to take anything for granted, especially when I’d watch and just wishing that I could be out there.”
When he’s at his best, Weisshaar marries elite explosiveness and short-area quickness with a hard, heavy shot. He drew early slides from the Lakers and showed that he could threaten a defense from the wing and up top.
BOYS’ LATIN 9, ARCHBISHOP SPALDING 8
Boys’ Latin 1 3 4 1 – 9
Archbishop Spalding 1 4 1 2 – 8
’21 Ben Smith (Crabs / Penn / NLF No. 47 ’21) 3 goals, 2 assists
’21 Riar Schell (Crabs / Delaware) 2 goals
’23 Jacob Pacheco (Crabs / NLF No. 10 ’23) 1 goal
’21 Garrett Glatz (Crabs / Navy / NLF No. 39 ’21) 1 goal
’22 Hopper Zappitello (Crabs) 1 goal
’23 Jackson Walsh (Crabs) 1 goal
’21 Gavin McClernan (Crabs / Washington & Lee) 2 assists
’21 Mac Moreland (Crabs / Salisbury) 3-for-13 faceoffs
’23 Thomas Moxley (Crabs) 5-for-7 faceoffs
’22 Cardin Stoller (Team 91 Maryland / Rutgers) 9 saves
’22 Mikey Weisshaar (Annapolis Hawks / Towson) 3 goals
’22 Race Ripley (Annapolis Hawks / Navy) 1 goal, 2 assists
’22 Ryan Schrier (Annapolis Hawks / Towson) 1 goal, 1 assist
’21 Josh Tang (UMBC) 2 goals
’21 Nick Gutierrez (UMBC) 1 goal, 1 assist
’21 Jake Oliver (Crabs / Penn) 8 saves
’22 Blake Malamphy (Annapolis Hawks) 11-for-18 faceoffs
’21 Trey Fleece (UMBC) 0-for-2 faceoffs