At the beginning of every one of Howard’s 18 straight wins this season, the Lions huddled at midfield while senior midfielder John Travisano circled the huddle a few yards away. He’d wait til the time was right then charge toward the huddle, which didn’t make a move before he got there, and then leap onto the backs of teammates in the middle of the circle. Travisano arrived, and Howard was ready.
Travisano did the same thing Tuesday night at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and everything started for the Lions with the faceoff magician yet again. The Notre Dame commit won 15 of 17 faceoffs against four-years-in-a-row state finalist South River in the Maryland 4A/3A championship game, keeping his team in a game it would ultimately lose 9-6. He ended his final year the way he spent all of it: as the engine in the center helping Howard to its best season in school history.
Despite the championship game loss, the Lions put together a magical season. Howard County had belonged to one team — Glenelg — in recent years, but the Lions emerged as Howard County’s best early and left no doubt about that fact late. Howard went 12-0 in Howard County, outscoring opponents 155-28, allowing a goal or fewer in half those games. The Lions knocked off Glenelg — who had carried a 60-game winning streak in-county into the season — 9-6 in a game Howard players cited as one of the biggest wins of the season.
The Lions finished as state semifinalists in 2013 and were knocked out by South River then, too: the Seahawks are the only team to beat the Lions in more than a year. This year, the Lions wanted more and got it, winning the county for the first time since 1991, not losing a game until Tuesday and making it one step further — the state title game — than they’d ever gone.
That near-perfect season came during the 50th anniversary year of Howard lacrosse, which began in 1964. The success mobilized the Lions’ community, even garnering support from the founding members of that original Howard team.
“I’ve never been a part of something in my whole entire career at Howard that’s had so much support,” said senior defender Peter Emery, who is committed to the University of Tampa. “It’s been unbelievable to see. The whole entire school had our back, the whole community. People from 50 years ago when they started the program came back and had our back. And just this whole entire season was amazing. It was fun to be a part of it.”
Emery anchored a defense also bolstered by junior Adam Friedman, who locked down opponents’ top scorers night. On attack, junior Scott Bruner scored 45 goals in 19 games and classmate Brad Zulick added 40 to pace the Lions’ attack.
But in the center of everything was Travisano, who scored 37 goals, including one in the championship game. That goal summed up Travisano’s ability to impact a game perfectly: the 6-footer won the faceoff cleanly and carried the ball to the goal, slicing through a few defenders to score seconds after he’d left the X. Travisano won more than 83 percent of his faceoffs this season and scooped up nearly 250 groundballs — more than triple the next highest total on his team and more than a fifth of Howard’s total. He’s been so consistent on the draw that Howard Coach Jimmy Creighton wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised by his 15 of 17 stat in the biggest game of his high school lacrosse career.
“John’s a beast, I knew that was going to happen tonight,” Creighton said after the game. “I expect nothing else of him, and he performed.”
Travisano heads to Notre Dame after committing last fall — making him a late pledge by lacrosse recruiting standards. As a junior, he picked up 163 groundballs and scored 29 goals while winning 65 percent of his faceoffs.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 125/238
Though the loss of stalwart seniors such as Emery and Travisano will sting, the Lions return three of the team’s top five leading scorers — Bruner, Zulick and Cody Ford — who were responsible for more than half Howard’s goals this season (125 of 238).
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Two local girls’ teams play for Maryland state titles Wednesday, as Marriotts Ridge plays its 3A/2A final at 4:00 pm and Severna Park plays in the 4A/3A title game at 6:00 pm.
PHOTOS OF THE DAY:
Here’s what it looked like last night at UMBC when South River topped Howard for the 4A/3A title.