As the team prepared for last Friday’s game at Churchill, Coach David Gonzalez pulled Saffer aside and asked if he’d be willing to make another impromptu position switch: The Cougars needed another long pole against the previously unbeaten Bulldogs. No experience necessary.
“I wasn’t really expecting it, but I was ready for whatever,” Saffer said. “I was just excited to do whatever I could do to help the team.”
Saffer borrowed a stick and learned to be a long-pole midfielder on the fly against Churchill. On defense, he matched up with a midfielder and did his best to slow Montgomery County’s highest scoring offense. When the Cougars had the ball, he switched back to his own stick and took his regular offensive shifts, too.
Saffer’s double duty paid off in Quince Orchard’s 14-13 overtime win in Potomac. He helped the Cougars defense gain possession in the extra frame and then his goal off a pass from senior Dylan Chaikin delivered the victory in the final minute of the first overtime.
Goalie John Barkanic kept Quince Orchard in the game with 20 saves, including three in overtime, and Chaikin paced the offense with four goals and five assists, but it was fitting that Saffer provided the finishing blow on a night when he did a little bit of everything.
“He’s my ideal player because he’s always going to put the team first,” said Gonzalez, a former assistant who took over for Mike Kowalick this season. “When we need something done, he’s the one that we’re going to lean on.”
Quince Orchard (9-4) struggled early in the season with three losses in its first four games, but the upset of Churchill in a game the team trailed by as many as five goals in the first half has boosted hopes for a deep playoff run.
The Montgomery 4A West champions backed up that performance with a down-to-the-wire 11-10 win over Montgomery 4A East champ Sherwood on Monday with Saffer again taking his turn on defense with the long pole.
“I’m getting more comfortable,” said Saffer, a two-year captain with 11 goals this season. “I’m not going to say I’ve mastered it all, but I feel like I can handle it.”
The Cougars have won eight of their past nine games to grab the No. 3 seed in the Maryland 4A/3A North playoffs behind Urbana and defending state runner-up Westminster. They’ll begin the postseason at home on Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s Gaithersburg-Thomas Johnson matchup.
“We’re coming together,” Gonzalez said. “The nice thing is that we’ve been through our ups and downs and the kids are on a consistent upswing right now and really feeling good about themselves.”
Arundel claims Anne Arundel County crown
In winning its first county title since 1999, the Wildcats avenged their lone loss of the season, a 10-6 setback in Edgewater on April 26.
“The first time we were focused too much on how to beat South River,” Coach Kevin Necessary said. “Sometimes I think you can start focusing on the wrong things and not thinking about what’s made you successful.”
Arundel (14-1) expected success this spring, returning 22 players off the squad that made a run to the Maryland 4A/3A East final last year as the No. 14 seed. Seniors Tyler Young (28 goals, 29 assists), Cameron Cetrone (33 goals, 34 assists) and Logan Fate (35 goals) pace a veteran-laden offense.
The Wildcats had their 2012 season ended by South River and had not beaten the Seahawks since 2001, but they found a way on Monday night, even after letting a two-goal lead slip away late.
South River All-Met Ben Chisolm brought the Seahawks (12-3) back with the final two goals of regulation, but they never got the ball in their offensive end in overtime.
Arundel won the faceoff and after losing it briefly, Young, a Towson recruit, forced a turnover on the clear attempt to get it back. Snyder took it from there, breaking in on cage for the left-handed shot that won the game.
“There’s nobody in our program that is surprised,” Necessary said. “We feel that we’ve been working real hard for a long time. I don’t want to make any bones about it.”
Seeking its first region title since 2001, Arundel begins postseason play as the No. 4 seed in the Maryland 4A/3A East on Wednesday, hosting Annapolis. The Wildcats could play South River for a third time in the region final. The Seahawks earned the No. 3 seed behind Northern and Huntingtown and host North Point on Wednesday.
Arundel avenged its lone loss of the season on Monday, topping South River, 7-6, on junior Aaron Snyder’s overtime goal in the Anne Arundel County title game. The teams could meet for a third time in the Maryland 4A/3A East final. . . . Georgetown Prep earned the top seed in the IAC playoffs for the first time in three years and would host the tournament final. . . . Newly ranked St. Mary’s Ryken will travel to top-ranked Gonzaga for a WCAC semifinal on Thursday.
1. Gonzaga (17-2) LW: 1
2. Paul VI (17-2) LW: 2
3. Georgetown Prep (17-5) LW: 3
4. Landon (12-6) LW: 4
5. Arundel (14-1) LW: 7
6. South River (12-3) LW: 6
7. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (12-6) LW: 5
8. Chantilly (14-1) LW: 9
9. Glenelg (12-2) LW: 10
10. St. Mary’s Ryken (14-5) LW: NR
Dropped out: No. 8 DeMatha (11-7)
Bubble: Bullis (8-8), Spalding (12-9), Chesapeake (12-2)
Records through Tuesday
Recruit Watch: Offers, commitments