Severna Park junior Weston Butcher, left, is one of the leaders for the Falcons. (John McDonnell/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The Severna Park boys’ lacrosse team missed a chance to pull an upset last Wednesday when it allowed three unanswered goals in the final seven minutes of a 9-7 loss to No. 5 St. Mary’s-Annapolis. But thanks to one of the toughest schedules for a Maryland public school, the Falcons will have two more opportunities this week to land a signature victory.

For the first time this season, Severna Park (3-1) was able to use its three allotted nonconference games to schedule Anne Arundel County’s top three private school teams. While the Falcons fell to the Saints, they still have tournament matchups with No. 8 Severn (Thursday) and Spalding (Saturday) remaining.

“The kids want to be challenged against great teams,” Kramer said. “They want to play the best teams they can possibly play to showcase their talents, and I want to do it, too.”

Kramer believes his squad has the firepower to compete with teams in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association-A Conference, which annually produces some of the nation’s best teams. In addition to its three regular season games against MIAA-A squads, Severna Park also scrimmaged Loyola Blakefield and St. Paul’s in the preseason.

The Falcons — who have won four state titles in the past eight years — are led by juniors Weston Butcher (Penn State), Billy Bollhorst (Navy) and Dash Ferguson (UMBC), but they may have the most talent in their sophomore class. Kramer was delighted when most of the top players who entered high school last year opted to play for their neighborhood program rather than choose a private school, and the group is already making an impact.

“We feel like we have just as good quality players” as the private schools, Kramer said. “It’s really about staying in the game and being mentally prepared. With those private schools, if you make a mistake they’re going to find the cage.”

Kramer has verbal agreements in place to play the three county private schools again next year, and he hopes to have even more scheduling flexibility in the coming years.

If a proposal for the county to move to a three-tiered scheduling system for boys’ and girls’ lacrosse is approved, the three top-tier schools would play nine conference games instead of 11. The county debuted a similar system for field hockey this fall. That arrangement, which would begin in the spring of 2014, would leave room for two more nonconference opponents each year.

Damascus girls showcase confidence

The Damascus girls’ lacrosse team was rarely challenged last season, breezing through its Montgomery 3A/2A slate, but in three losses, Coach Jodi Hathaway saw a different team, a group afraid to play its best against the toughest competition.

With a 16-7 win over Churchill on Mar. 26, Hathaway believes the Hornets have beaten that problem. Junior Holly Lawrence had six goals and junior Colby Muller added five goals and two assists to help snap the Bulldogs’ 23-game winning streak against Montgomery County competition, dating back to April 2010.

“I knew they had it in them, but sometimes they tend to hold back in big games,” Hathaway said. “They came out ready this time, and I really couldn’t have been happier with the way they played.”

Hathaway hopes Damascus (3-0) is ready to take the next step. While the team has been traditionally strong in county, it has struggled to match up with the state’s best. Last spring the Hornets’ season ended with a 17-3 loss at Carroll County power Century.

This time around, Damascus is led by a group of seven juniors that all started last season, including Muller (Old Dominion). To keep the team sharp through its Montgomery 3A/2A schedule, Hathaway said she will try to get the players to focus on certain skills each game, whether it’s winning draws or initiating its offense from behind the goal.

“We are still kind of young, but we have experience,” Hathaway said. “In the past nerves have gotten in the way of skill a little bit, but as a team, we’re playing beyond our years right now.”