For the first half of Bullis’s home opener against DeMatha on Wednesday night, the Bulldogs looked to be making an early-season statement. They held possession for long stretches and produced four goals with relative ease.
But as the second half ticked away, the rain in Potomac stopped and the temperature dropped. The change in barometric pressure brought a shift: Once dominated and discombobulated, DeMatha began to track down loose balls that had bounced to Bullis in the first half. The Stags began to control possession, then staged a comeback, rallying with five fourth-quarter goals and holding Bullis scoreless to earn an 8-6 win, their first against the Bulldogs since 2004.
“We did a better job on the ground ball wars in the second half,” said midfielder Brady Thompson, who scored twice in two minutes in the fourth quarter, the second the game-tying tally with 5 minutes 36 seconds to play. “We started picking up a few more, winning draws, and get into what we were used to playing offense.”
Down 5-1 early in the second half, the Stags (4-0) patiently marched back into the game, aided by the Bullis turf, which gave the Stags some favorable bounces on loose balls that seemed to go all the Bulldogs’ way early. Thompson, Steve Partlow, and Matt Brisolari turned more frequent, lengthier possessions into goals, each scoring two in the second-half comeback.
“Midway through the third quarter, I thought we were starting to pick up a few more of those loose balls, we weren’t getting any of those loose balls in the first half,” DeMatha Coach Scott Morrison said. “In the second half, the ball started bouncing our way a little better, and a lot of it was due to our tenacity.”
Morrison said that tenacity emanated from his “lunch-pail guys,” like faceoff man Evan Skinner, who “turned it around and had a big second half” after Bullis (3-1) controlled most of the first-half draws. Morrison also moved up defenseman James Jennings to the wing on faceoffs, where he gave the Stags “a big lift.”
With the game tied at 6, it was Brisolari who struck the memorable blow for DeMatha. Bullis looked to finally have forced the Stags into a rare second-half turnover when DeMatha midfielder Sean Doyle knocked the ball loose as the Bulldogs looked to break. Brisolari picked up the loose ball right in front of the Bullis net and fired a low shot in.
Brisolari said that while DeMatha had beaten Bullis in a 2013 scrimmage, the Stags had never earned a win over the IAC power when it counted, making Wednesday’s victory a special one, even if it’s early in the season.
“Beating them from the IAC, that’s a huge step for us,” he said. “The first of many more steps to come this season.”