As Landon and Bullis lined up for postgame handshakes after Friday’s Interstate Athletic Conference championship game — a 9-8 Bullis win in the final seconds — Bears Coach Rob Bordley led his players through the procession while a chant sounded from the student section.
“Thank you, Bordley,” the fans yelled between claps.
Bordley, who decided before the season that 2018 was his last on the sidelines, hardly acknowledged the cheers, instead congratulating each Bulldogs player for winning the championship that he’s made the annual expectation for Landon in his more than 40 years as lacrosse coach.
“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great players,” Bordley said. “We’ve won some games, but I’ve never won any faceoffs, I’ve never scored any goals. But I had a lot of good players that did both for me, and I’ve had a lot of superb coaches.”
Bordley was a student at Landon from third grade to high school graduation, and after spending the next four years at Princeton for football and lacrosse, he returned to the school to teach in 1970. In his 42 years as lacrosse coach, Bordley, also an assistant football coach, built Landon into one of the country’s premier lacrosse teams.
He’s totaled 31 IAC championships, and Landon made a strong push for a 32nd on Friday when midfielder John Geppert tied the game at 8 with about a minute left. Bordley also led Landon to a 22-year run atop of the league from 1981 to 2002, four national championships and undefeated seasons in 2002 and 2017.
Bordley has become so synonymous with Landon that he said his 50th and 70th surprise birthday parties were filled with current and former Landon coaches, players and friends.
“My whole life is Landon,” Bordley said.
The decision to step back into a role of mentoring and assisting with fundraising after this year comes from fatigue. He’s spent every offseason attending college practices for insight from the top programs in the area, but last winter, he didn’t have the same drive.
On the Bethesda field lined with handmade banners in his honor, Bordley reflected on his favorite moments after coaching his final game.
There was a win against Gonzaga a few years back at Georgetown University with “the biggest crowd I ever saw down there,” Bordley said. There was Landon’s historic 21-0 season in 2017, and there were a few great wins over longtime rival Georgetown Prep, including a close one this year on the same day Landon dedicated its yearbook to Bordley.
“You can’t really appreciate it right now, but we’ll look back on it in five or 10 years,” said Bordley’s son J.R. who’s coached alongside his dad for 13 years. “You can’t put it into words. It’s unlike anything.”
Here are this week’s rankings.
1. Gonzaga (17-3) LW: 1
The WCAC champion Eagles will graduate nine players bound for Division I lacrosse programs.
2. Bullis (15-3) LW: 3
Sophomore Isaac Aronson netted the game-winner with 8.6 seconds left in the Interstate Athletic Conference championship to down Landon and avenge last year’s final loss.
3. Churchill (13-0) LW: 2
The Bulldogs’ Maryland 4A West region semifinal game against Whitman was postponed until Tuesday because of severe weather.
4. Riverside (13-1) LW: 4
The Rams closed out the regular season with 12 straight wins, scoring at least 10 goals in all but one.
5. Glenelg (14-1) LW: 5
In a meeting of the past two Howard County champions, the Gladiators will face Marriotts Ridge in the Maryland 2A South region semifinal on Tuesday.
6. Howard (14-1) LW: 6
The Lions downed Catonsville, 10-2, to reach the Maryland 4A North region semifinal against Dulaney on Tuesday.
7. South Lakes (13-1) LW: 7
The Seahawks will play Langley, the lone team to defeat South Lakes this season, on Tuesday for the Liberty District championship.
8. Robinson (13-2) LW: 9
The Rams face Woodson, which they beat by four goals on May 4, in the Patriot District championship on Wednesday.
9. Landon (12-6) LW: 8
In a season when the Bears had eight games decided by two goals or fewer, Landon couldn’t push past Bullis in the IAC championship.
10. Paul VI (16-4) LW: 10
The Panthers start the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association tournament on Tuesday against St. Christopher’s.
Dropped out: None
Bubble: Woodson (13-3), Briar Woods (13-1), Severna Park (13-2), St. John’s (12-4)