Above – LHP’s Austin Farwell readies for the shot by Enrique Marnotes- photo by Enstone Images
Lake Highland Prep started the season loosing three of it’s first four games. They were 6-8 when they got an overtime win against Jupiter and they haven’t looked back.
That OT win was the beginning of a six game win streak, including a win last night in the quarterfinals to eliminate a talented H.B. Plant team.
Going into this game much had been made about the disparity in the two schedules. Lake Highland had had a few struggles this season, but those struggles were against some of the country’s best programs. Including losses to Boys Latin, McDonogh, Lovett and IMG. As well as Ponte Vedra, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Andrews, and Lake Brantley. There have been plenty of good teams who have lost to that group.
Plant, on the other hand, had played IMG (an impressive 17-9 loss) and had only been tested one other time when they survived an overtime scare against Steinbrenner. Otherwise, they had cruised to 16 comfortable victories.
Would Lake Highland be honed to a razor sharpness from their schedule or beat up? Would Plant’s schedule leave them well rested or unprepared?
As it turns out, none of that mattered. Both teams showed up well prepared to play, both teams played at a very high level, and in the end the best team won.
The game started out much like the Lake Highland season. The stumbled a little out of the gate and a talented Plant team jumped all over it. The Panthers jumped out to a 2-1 lead on goals by Henry Brannan and Cody Whigham.
But Plant provided a few EMO opportunities for LHP and that is always a mistake. Christian Cisnero rattled off three straight goals in the last four minutes of the first quarter, two on :30 EMO’s and one in transition to take away whatever momentum Plant had and finish the first quarter up 4-2.
There was some excellent defensive work done by both teams. With Buck Daley making some great takeaways for LHP and turning them into opportunities while Bennett Taylor and Egan Baber doing the same thing for Plant.
But the Highlanders were getting the finishes.
After a Buck Daley take away Lukas Kott found James Stine who made it 5-2 early in the second quarter.
Enrique Marnotes made a great fake and finish on the doorstep for Plant to take advantage of an EMO to make it 5-3.
Danny Carlson followed that up to make it 5-4 with under five minutes left in the half. Plant was still hanging in there and were doing a good job of frustrating the settled six on six offense of LHP. Outstanding short stick middie defense from Eric Cotty and Noah Blackman.
The Highlanders just have no shortage of weapons and kept the pressure on until Ethan Carpenter took a pass from Jackson Colling and stuck it in the high corner to make it 6-4 with 1:21 left in the half.
The Highlanders got the ball back and drew another flag with short time left in the half. The held the ball and to start the second half with a 6-4 lead, an EMO, the ball, and the EMO unit already on the field.
It took 17 seconds for Cisneros to score his fourth of the game with the dish coming from Carpenter.
Plant continued to have decent success defending the settled offense but the Highlanders just moved the game to places it was working for them. One was the EMO which Plant was providing and the other was transition. As Plant fell behind they needed to create second chance opportunities for the offense and stiffened up on the ride. But Lake Highland’s athletic middies are adept at finding those seams and getting the ball just over the ride to the open man.
Lukas Kott scored unassisted in transition to make it 8-4, then Jack Vaughan in transition as an EMO expired to make it 9-4. After a Plant turnover Lukas Kott out-hustled the Plant ride on the restart and got the ball to Vaughn who turned on the after burners and went straight to the pipes, catching the Plant defense a little flat-footed and made it 10-4 with 5:12 left in the third.
Plant called a dead ball timeout on their defensive end to set up a defensive play. As the goalie came out of the net to double a ball caromed off the post and rolled straight to Jack Vaughn who scored while the goalie was out of position to make it 11-4 with 2:30 left in the third.
The action stayed steady even as the scoring slowed a little in the fourth. It was Eric Cotty who got things going in with an unassisted goal off of a dodge from the top and a long shot for Plant to make it 11-5.
Jackson Colling would come back, however, and throw the high heat to make it 12-5 with 5:42.
Cisneros would score two more in the final two minutes of the game for LHP and Enrique Marnotes scored a late goal for Plant to make the final 14-6.
Plant finished an excellent season finishing 17-2. It’s too bad these guys are restricted by the rules of the Hillsborough County athletic department. The Hillsborough county public schools are required to play all of the other schools in the county and are not allowed to travel outside of the county for games. I’m sure somewhere there is some bureaucrat that can explain why but I don’t care. It’s stupid and it needs to change. These guys are are talented and need to get out there and play some better competition. The had nine games with a margin of victory of more than ten goals. How is that fun or healthy for anyone?
When it was all said and done, however, there was way more depth on the LHP side of the ball. The Highlanders found some good match ups at both ends of the field and used speed and great ball movement to exploit a ride that had not seen this level of clearing other than the IMG game.
The Highlanders head to the final four for the seventh straight year. They’ll face Ponte Vedra on Friday.