ST. JAMES — The boys lacrosse match between Smithsburg and Saint James began as a defensive struggle, but it quickly turned into an offensive onslaught by Smithsburg.
The Leopards got physical in the second quarter and scored 12 consecutive goals at one point of a 15-5 victory over the Saints in their home opener.
Smithsburg used a passive approach in the first quarter, but took a much more aggressive tack in the second, going hard after ground balls and pushing the Saints off the ball.
“We were hanging back early in the first quarter to see what was happening,” said Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich. “We called a timeout and made adjustments, and if the ball was on the ground, we were on it. That made a big difference on possession.”
It wasn’t that the Leopards (3-0) didn’t have some early opportunities. In the first four minutes of the game, shots by Dillan Harbaugh and Ryan Milligan got past Saint James keeper Will Smith, but both rang the side post.
The Saints (0-3) scored first as Ben Louderback worked from behind the goal and beat Smithsburg keeper Clayton Layman from the left side.
It took Saint James two full quarters to beat Layman again. He made a key save late in the first quarter to preserve a 1-1 tie, then made stops on five point-blank shots in the second and third quarters as Smithsburg pulled away. Layman finished with 12 saves.
“He’s an outstanding goalie. He made a number of saves in close, especially when we were trying to battle back,” said Saint James coach Steve Lachut. “The scouting report was to get the ball at his feet and we didn’t do a good job of that, but he made some big saves.”
Kevin Grimm evened the score with just over a minute left in the first quarter, taking a pass from Josh Thomas and slipping the ball past Smith on his right.
In the second, Saint James wasn’t able to match Smithsburg as it increased the intensity. The Leopards forced a number of turnovers and began running their offense through Harbaugh on the right wing.
Harbaugh scored three straight goals from practically the same spot on the field to increase the margin to 4-1. Harbaugh finished with five goals and an assist.
“He has a high, hard shot and he likes that spot,” Dietrich said.
The Leopards led 8-1 at halftime and pushed the lead to 12-1 before Leighton Younger ended the Saints’ drought by scoring midway through the third quarter.
Grimm had four goals and Thomas had two goals and five assists for Smithsburg. Milligan, Corey Dunkin, Garrett Brenk and Garrett Ghafir each had one goal.
Younger had two goals, while Justin Pank and John Stephens had one each for the Saints.
“We came out strong today, but when they pushed us back, we weren’t ready for it,” Lachut said. “We weren’t hustling to groundballs and we weren’t getting our knuckles down to get them.”