Highlights courtesy of Lax.com
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McDonogh’s playoffs started with two games left in the regular season. The run ended with championship gold.
Fighting their way through the playoffs as a No. 5 seed, McDonogh beat St. Mary’s, 14-8, in the MIAA A Conference championship Friday evening at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium. The victory put an exclamation point on a spectacular postseason run for the Eagles, who at one point were in danger of missing the playoffs entirely.
“I knew from the start that we had the guys to accomplish this,” said McDonogh’s McCabe Millon, the NLF’s No. 1-ranked junior. “I knew Feb. 22 when we stepped out for our first practice we could do it. It was just a matter of finding our groove and playing with each other. Now we’re out here MIAA champs.”
Starting Out Strong
McDonogh (13-6) jumped on St Mary’s (16-3) early in the title contest, scoring five unanswered goals while holding the Saints scoreless for almost 22 minutes to take a 5-2 lead into halftime.
Five different players scored for the Eagles in the first half with goals from Luke Miller, NLF No. 18 senior Matt McMillen (Crabs / Penn) , Millon, Chase Green (Team 91 Maryland ’24) and Brendan Millon (Team 91 Maryland ’25).
McDonogh’s defense, led by goalie Anthony Wilson (Crabs / Villanova) and senior LSM Jonny Cool (Team 91 Maryland / Ohio State), held the fort during the team’s first half-run. Wilson cut off space with his large frame and quick hands, while the defense attacked the ball consistently.
“We were opportunistic offensively, we stayed patient, we didn’t rush things, and that made a huge difference for us,” McDonogh head coach Andy Hilgartner said. “Our defense in the first half was also unbelievable. We gave up just two goals that were both unsettled broken plays.”
Special teams also played a key role in the first half, with face-off midfielder Zach Hayashi and senior LSM Malachi Jones winning ground balls and stymying Saint Mary’s transition.
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Big Hits, Big Runs
St. Mary’s found scoring opportunities in transition early in the second half, bringing the game to 6-4 with 6:21 left in the third quarter. McDonogh responded, answering with a four-goal run of its own.
McCabe Millon scored arguably the most important goal of the Eagles’ second half run. With 9:46 left in the fourth quarter, he hit a St. Mary’s player hard on the ride to force a turnover, scooped the ball and scored against a recovering defense to make it 9-4.
Though St. Mary’s would score four more times in the fourth, the air was out of the stadium following Millon’s goal.
“That was really the first body check of my life,” Millon, who scored a game-high six points, said. “I’ve never really been the biggest guy out there, I usually try to get away with being the fastest.”
Freshman Millon A Difference Maker
Brother Brendan Millon, only a freshman, was another crucial piece in McDonogh’s offense Friday. Missing the bulk of the regular season with a foot injury, the younger Millon added a spark of energy to the Eagles’ offense when it needed it most, scoring three goals Friday.
His hat-trick in the championship game added to his four-goal output in Tuesday’s semifinals, including scoring the somewhat controversial game winner in an 11-10 MIAA victory against Boys’ Latin. Without the younger Millon in the lineup, the Eagles scored 40 goals in five games against fellow MIAA playoff teams. With him in it, they scored 37 goals in three playoff games, an average of 4.33 goals better per game.
“It’s hard enough to come back from an injury for anybody, let alone a freshman,” Hilgartner said. “He’s a great player who’s got a great feel for the game. I’m not surprised.”
For older brother McCabe, it was a thrill to have his brother on the field, a situation that wasn’t as apparent earlier in the year when their father, lacrosse legend Mark Millon, shared an x-ray of Brendan’s foot on Twitter.
“I’m literally on the verge of tears for the last 10 minutes,” McCabe said. “I love him so much and he worked so hard to get back from his injury. I’ve seen him every day grind to get back,” he said.
Along with the Millon brothers, Miller added two goals. All three attackmen return next year, giving the Eagles a formidable group with which to defend their title.
Saints Will Be Back
Though St. Mary’s offense found bursts of energy throughout Friday’s title game, the Saints never recovered from their slow first half. The loss put a damper on an otherwise remarkable run for the Saints in 2022, who started the year winning 14 consecutive games.
“Getting behind 5-0 early to an A conference lacrosse team is a very tough hole to get yourself out of,” St. Mary’s coach Victor Lilly said. “You go down five goals in this league and it’s a long day.”
Saint Mary’s relied on junior midfielder Erik Chick (Johns Hopkins) (four goals), senior attackman Will Hopkins (Bucknell) (three goals) and junior Jake Kucinski (one goal, two assists) for its offense.
McDonogh’s Long and Winding Road to a Title Win
Despite a wild post-victory celebration, which included hundreds of McDonogh students rushing the field, Eagle players were all too aware how close they were to missing out on hoisting the title plaque this season.
In mid-April, the Eagles were just 4-3 in-conference following a disappointing 10-4 loss to St. Paul’s (Md.). Ranked No. 1 in the MIAA and No. 5 overall in the preseason NLF Rankings, McDonogh had fallen all the way to ninth in the rankings.
“We got beat by a much better team that day,” Hilgartner said. “For us, we had to do a lot of introspection at the end of that game. It wasn’t McDonogh lacrosse and it was a negative mindset we had that day.”
The turn around began with bounce back wins against John Carroll and Gilman to earn the fifth seed in the playoffs. A 12-10 victory over Archbishop Spalding in the quarterfinals and the semifinal win against Boys’ Latin secured the Eagles the opportunity to earn the program’s first title since 2016 and its fourth since the association started in 1996.
“Every negative thing, every obstacle we had to hurdle this season made us that much stronger. We kept talking about peaking in May and our goals never changed,” Cool said. said. “We kept this game and this stadium in mind. All we wanted to do was win two games here.”
McDonogh-St. Mary’s Standouts
McCabe Millon ’23, attack, McDonogh / Team 91 Maryland / Duke – NLF No. 1 ’23
Obviously Millon is a known commodity, committed to Duke and ranked the top recruit in the Class of 2023. Still, you want to see the top players step up in pressure moments, and in that respect the junior delivered in the championship game scoring a game-high six points on four goals and two assists. The offensive IQ, vision, speed in the box and the ability to work off others were all there. He also added a new wrinkle, showing a bit of physicality in his game on the ride and off ground balls. As players add size and muscle through their career, they become more comfortable bodying up opponents. If Millon can add that to his repertoire, watch out.
Brendan Millon ’25, attack, McDonogh / Team 91 Maryland
What a revelation. Though the genealogy was there, Millon still impressed in his late-season debut for the Eagles. Returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for much of 2022, Millon’s biggest strengths at this stage are his vision, placement and hand speed. The ball just flies off his stick with accuracy and purpose. Only a freshman, if Millon’s healthy next year he’ll be part of a returning line that includes his brother McCabe and the talented Luke Miller, who scored two goals in the title game.
Malachi Jones ’22, defense / LSM, McDonogh (Md.) / Team 91 Maryland / Virginia – NLF No. 46 ’22
Jones did everything right Friday. As an LSM, he ran defensive point on the rope, using his game IQ and wheels to matchup against top shooters attacking from the top of the box. He also challenges hard for groundballs and pushes transition with his speed, working both on the line and on the face-off wing. Jones will also take the shot when it’s open. Early in the fourth quarter, he attacked a broken Saint Mary’s defense, drove to the cage and buried it right on the doorstep. His skills look like they’ll fit perfectly with Virginia’s athletic, uptempo style.
Anthony Wilson ’22, goalie, McDonogh / Crabs / Villanova
Different coaches look for different attributes from their goalie prospect. If you like guys who can fill the cage, hold their line most of the time and make saves with smooth hands, Wilson’s your guy. He made nine saves for McDonogh, working with his defense to channel shooters and forcing shots that turn into high percentage saves. Maybe he steps up in the crease a little too much, but that’s a trait that Villanova can work on.
Will Hopkins ’22, attack, St. Mary’s (Md.) / Bucknell
There’s always room in lacrosse for small, quick players with high level stick skills and on-point shooting ability. Hopkins notched three goals in the title game, using all those attributes to create space, free up his hands and execute. He’s a perfect prospect for the Bison and should thrive playing in the Patriot League.
McDonogh 14, St. Mary’s 8
Box score courtesy of Baltimore Sun
McDonogh 3 2 3 6 — 14
St. Mary’s 0 2 2 4 — 8
McCabe Millon ’23 (NLF No. 1 ’23 / Team 91 Maryland / Duke) 4 goals, 2 assists
Brendan Millon ’25 (Team 91 Maryland) 3 goals
Luke Miller ’24 2 goals, 1 assist
Matt McMillen ’22 (NLF No. 18 ’22 / Crabs / Penn) 1 goal
Malachi Jones ’22 (NLF No. 46 ’22 / Team 91 Maryland / Virginia) 1 goal
Chase Green ’24 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 goal
Bogue Hahn ’25 (Team 91 Maryland) 1 goal
Tre Moore ’23 (Saint Joseph’s) 1 goal
Anthony Wilson ’22 (Crabs / Villanova) 9 saves
Erik Chick ’23 (Johns Hopkins) 4 goals
Will Hopkins ’22 (Bucknell) 3 goals
Jake Kucinski ’23 1 goal, 2 assists
Zack Overend ’22 (High Point) 8 saves