Before the comeback, before the lights illuminated the McIntosh High School turf and the adrenaline pumped through the Chiefs lacrosse players like a Kentucky Derby race horse, there was a game that appeared as lopsided as a varsity-JV scrimmage.
The Wesleyan Wolves weaved down the opposing team’s field with passing precision, as if each possession had been preceded by a timeout to draw up a play. Meanwhile, McIntosh’s shots sailed through uprights and rolled past end zones, finding a home anywhere but the net.
The only sign of offensive efficiency was when Zach Jones scored with five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first quarter, the only McIntosh goal for the first 16 minutes of the game.
“When you get to the playoffs, you want to be remembered for having grit and being able to come back,” McIntosh community coach Pete Cramblet said to his players before Tuesday’s game. “It’s not how you play in the regular season. It’s what you do in the playoffs.”
8-1. Trailing by seven goals in the first quarter, it seemed unbelievable that 90 minutes later, the Chiefs would be celebrating a 16-15 victory, snapping the Wolves’ six game win streak and a two-game losing streak of their own.
In the first four minutes and 11 seconds of the game, Wesleyan’s Garrett Hangartner already had a hat trick. Two more Wolves players, Sid Brendel and Rawley Smith, also scored multiple times before McIntosh forced the ball past the goalie more than once.
8-2. Thirty-four seconds after Wesleyan’s eighth goal, James Outlaw scored on an assist from Jones, cutting the deficit to six. The McIntosh fans relished in finally having something to cheer about, but it was getting dark, and it still looked more likely than not that the sun was setting on the Chiefs’ hopes of advancing to the second round of the A-5A playoffs.
“We took our foot off the gas,” Wesleyan head coach Lee Rider said. “Started missing shots, making turnovers.”
8-4. In the first quarter, Tyler Harrison, father of a Wesleyan player, had been calmly chatting with the mother of the team’s goalie near the corner of the bleachers, keeping one eye on the field just in case. Now, McIntosh was on a three-goal run and there was still 5:20 left in the first half.
Harrison began pacing back and forth, his steps heaviest immediately after a McIntosh goal and his strides longer with each successive one. In a recent game, Wesleyan had erased an 8-2 deficit to win. Harrison knew it was possible.
“They never give up. That’s what I love about this team,” Rider said. “No matter what’s going on. Momentum, we always find a way to get back. Tonight, we just came up a little short.”
8-7. Tanner Price completed a six-goal run for the Chiefs, and 15.4 seconds later, the halftime buzzer sounded. McIntosh players shouted all the way to the locker room, as if they were winning by 10 when in fact they were still behind by one.
“It’d be nice if we can get to overtime with them this time and sneak out a win,” Cramblet thought as the game hit halftime, reflecting on his team’s one-goal loss to Wesleyan on Feb. 24.
Like the first meeting of the season between the two teams, Wesleyan came out of halftime the better team. Two consecutive goals placed McIntosh in a familiar hole, down 10-7.
The Chiefs didn’t score until 5:10 in the third quarter, but it was followed by two more, including an unassisted goal from Jones — the second team All-State attacker — with 3.1 seconds remaining in the quarter to tie the game at 10-10.
The momentum swung back and forth until two straight Outlaw goals and a Price goal put McIntosh ahead 15-12 with 4:27 left in the fourth quarter. Another Price goal wasn’t enough to put the Wolves away for good, because with 54 seconds on the clock, Wesleyan scored its second straight goal in 27 seconds, giving itself a chance to send the game to overtime.
Before the game, McIntosh head coach Larry Singleton surmised it would be a close game between the two teams, who both entered with a 12-6 record. He was right, but there was no way he could predict how the game would play out.
“It was really a good team win,” Cramblet said. “Guys played unselfishly and I like the way they came back.”
The Chiefs players flooded the field immediately after a final defensive stand to secure an improbable win, but the state championship is still three wins away. McIntosh travels to face Westminster on Saturday. Westminster (15-4) defeated Grady 19-4 in the first round.
McIntosh girls overcome slow start, easily advance to second round
The McIntosh Lady Chiefs (19-1) didn’t lead in the first half against Holy Innocents’ Episcopal (6-9) and fell behind five separate times in the 25 minute-span. The second half played out a little differently.
McIntosh scored seven straight goals to begin the second half en route to a 20-11 win over the Holy Innocents Golden Bears, advancing to the second round of the A-5A playoffs. Marie Ogletree was the team’s leading scorer, with six goals.
“We came out a little flat in the first half,” McIntosh head coach David High said.
Patterson Williams came out strong for the Golden Bears, scoring a hat trick less than halfway through the first half and hitting four of her team’s first five goals.
“She’s a three-season athlete, comes out in the middle of the season and scored 30 goals in six games,” Holy Innocents head coach J LaFramboise said.
The Lady Chiefs tried to grab a hold of the lead on multiple occasions throughout the first half, but were unsuccessful. McIntosh’s Sammy Morgan tied the game with a goal at 1-1 and again at 3-3. While Holy Innocents maintained a lead, McIntosh never let it extend past two goals.
Ogletree tied the game at 8-8 with 31.7 seconds remaining in the first half.
Thirty-eight seconds into the second half, Jonna Knight had already scored for McIntosh. Less than five minutes into the half, the score was 14-8 in the Lady Chiefs’ favor.
“The passes weren’t going where we wanted them to go, so we cleaned it up in the second half and it looked a lot better,” High said.
High was coaching in just his 20th lacrosse game, but his players made him look like a someone who’d been coaching for many years in the second half.
While the shots were not going through in the first half, McIntosh was nailing nearly every shot attempt in the second half, including a shot Monse Morgan made as she was falling down.
“She’s a heck of a good athlete,” High said of Morgan.
McIntosh plays at Kell on Saturday. Kell (10-9) beat Grady 18-1 Tuesday.