It really all started this time a year ago, in the nagging heat of June, when J.R. Bordley started mapping out the 2017 season long before he needed to think about it at all.
Bordley, a Landon assistant coach, made calls about scheduling. He carefully typed the Bears’ summer roster into a Microsoft Word document. He saw what Landon had: an electric attack, experienced midfield, dependable defense and, by many accounts, the country’s best faceoff specialist.
He also had a conundrum at hand, and it helped shape a guiding goal: How could he repeatedly challenge a group so talented and give it a chance to stick out from the Bears’ fabled lacrosse history?
“We set up a gauntlet for them,” Bordley said Wednesday, more than a month since Landon capped a perfect season with a league title. “And they sprinted right through it.”
That sprint included 21 wins, zero losses and, as a punctuation mark, a toppling of Bullis in the Interstate Athletic Conference championship game. The Bears handed the Brunswick School, a top team in New England, its only loss of the season. They beat St. Ignatius Prep (19-2), a top California program. They edged Cardinal Gibbons, one of the best teams in North Carolina. And they dominated the top competition in the area, beating Bullis twice, Gonzaga, St. John’s (the eventual Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions), St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes, Paul VI, Churchill, and so on.
All of those teams were in The Post’s final Top 10 rankings of the season. Landon started, stayed and finished No. 1.
“We had to really earn everything we accomplished this spring, I mean really earned it,” senior defenseman Cam James said. “And that’s what was great about the season. We’ll remember how we finished, but also what it took to get there.”
At the heart of that was Justin Shockey, who muscled and maneuvered his way to a 79.3 percent success rate in the faceoff circle. That funneled possessions to Landon’s offense, led by junior Joey Epstein (a Johns Hopkins commit) and Navy-bound senior Nate Buller. Epstein’s 123 points — 75 goals, 48 assists — shattered the Bears’ single-season record by 48. Buller finished the year with 51 goals and 26 assists.
That led Landon to score 10 or more goals in all but two games this spring. The defense, anchored by goalie Shane Corcoran, only twice allowed 10 or more. That combination was, from the second week of March to the second week of May, simply unbeatable.
“These guys said they wanted to be on the Mount Rushmore of Landon lacrosse teams,” Bordley said. “They definitely did that. We will be talking about this team for a long time. We’ll maybe be talking about this team forever.”
The Post Top 10
Bullis’ only losses of the year came against Landon (twice) and McDonough, a perennial national powerhouse … St. John’s ended Gonzaga’s streak of seven consecutive Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles, and beat the Eagles in the championship … Churchill’s only defeats were to Landon and Severna Park, as Severna Park beat the Bulldogs in Maryland’s 4A/3A championship … Northern beat Glenelg for Maryland’s 3A/2A title on May 23, and became the first Southern Maryland Athletic Conference team to do so in boys or girls lacrosse … Riverside, in just its second season as a program, capped a perfect spring with an 8-6 win over E.C. Glass in Virginia’s 4A final.
1. Landon (21-0) Last ranked: 1
2. Severna Park (20-0) LR: 2
3. Bullis (18-3) LR: 3
4. St. John’s (11-5) LR: 4
5. Churchill (18-2) LR: 5
6. St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (16-7) LR: 6
7. Gonzaga (14-7) LR: 7
8. Northern (18-2) LR: 9
9. Paul VI (16-6) LR: 10
10. Riverside (20-0) LR: NR
Dropped out: Briar Woods (16-3) LR: 8