Lake Mary, last season’s final four representative from the North Region visiting Lake Brantley, the new guy in the North Region.These two Seminole county schools are not new to each other, however. They play each other every year and compete for the Seminole Athletic Conference crown. The regular season meeting between these two went to Lake Brantley by two goals.
Now, with it all on the line we knew it was going to be a close one.
Lake Mary got the opening face off and settled into their deliberate style of play. However they tried in inside feed and it was knocked down, picked up by Brantley, and headed the other way.
Jared Bernhardt got the ball out to the wing and drew quite a bit of attention. With most of the Rams defense cheating toward his wing, Bernhardt found Austin Guerrina wide open who had time to set his feet, get his hands up, and make an excellent shot to get the early lead for the Patriots.
Lake Mary goalie, Jake Lerch, showed he was up to the task as on the next possession Jared Bernhardt made a great shot but he made an even better save on the off side high attempt.
Twice Lerch made saves to get the ball back to the Rams but it was turned over on the clear and a third clear failed off of a Lake Brantley turnover. Finally, after several shots and second chances Lake Brantley’s Bernhardt took advantage to make it 2-0.
Shortly after that another busted clear gave Guerrina another opportunity and he made it 3-0 and the early part of this game was all Lake Brantley.
Lake Mary’s Charlie Ragault wasn’t going to let it go easy, however. He took advantage of a Lake Brantley turnover and made it 3-1. Shortly after that he showed some velocity and accuracy on his room and time shot to make it 3-2.
This time it was Lake Brantley’s turn to put it on the turf on a clear and Lake Mary’s Taylor Ayres picked it up at in full stride at the midfield and went straight to the pipes with it, tying the game at three as the first quarter came to a close.
Lake Mary had a big advantage on the Face Off X in the first quarter with excellent wing play, but turnovers had cost them and Lake Brantley was opportunistic.
Lake Mary looked to have settled down as the second quarter opened, getting the ball on a procedure call at the face off. They got off two excellent shots on the possession but Jake Markiewicz turned them away.
But the Patriots soon found themselves down two men and Kyle Sande made it look easy as he took a feed right on the doorstep and finished to give the Rams the lead.
Both teams traded excellent offense for the next few minutes as Taylor Ayres showed great quickness for Lake Mary and got off a good shot but nobody backed it up and it went to Brantley. At the other end Brantley made it work but hit the pipe and a crazy rebound went back to the Rams and Brantley went offside on the transition and found themselves a man down once again.
The Patriots managed to kill the :30 penalty but as it was released, in those few seconds of confusion as the defense adjusts back to 6 on 6, Walker Mays found a seam and took a feed takes to score for the Rams.
Ceppos won the face off for Lake Brantley and we started to notice that Dylan Barnes, LB sophomore, was starting to find some openings. He was getting some good looks and has a great shot but was just off the mark but we could tell he would factor into this thing.
Bernhardt took the ball at X and the defender gave his his right hand. Bernhardt made the most of it, using that great first step to spring to the Island and score, making it 5-4 with 4:26 left in the half.
Ragault worked from the GLE, moving up field slightly and finishing with a question marks to make it 6-4 with 3:45 left in the half.
With 1:28 remaining in the first half Lake Brantley drew a late hit call. Austin Guerrina took advantage of the extra man to hit from way outside on a low bouncer to make it 6-5 with 1:06 left in the half.
The first half would end with the 6-5 score. The first half saw Lake Mary with an advantage at the face off X and in overall ground balls but turnovers were keeping them from taking full advantage. Lake Brantley actually had three more shot opportunities than the Rams.
Both teams traded possessions to begin the second half but with just over a minute and a half gone it was Austin Guerrina to AJ Monte and we were tied. Two minutes later it was Ayers to Sande to make it 7-6 in favor of Lake Mary.
Grant Sousley scored a great goal for Lake Mary with 8:06 left in the third to get the Rams up by two. He drove the alley, got tripped up, managed to get back to his feet and got the shot off, it was the kind of effort we get to see during elimination playoff time.
Lake Mary was flagged for an illegal substitution with 3:15 in the quarter. Both teams were excellent on the EMO last night and this one was no different. AJ Monte found Mike Dobrowolski for the goal to bring the Patriots to within one at 8-7 with 2:53 in the third.
The always hustling Kyle Sande intercepted a clearing pass and sprinted to the goal while goalie was way out past the restraining line to make it 9-7 with 1:04 left.
With less than two minutes gone in the fourth quarter Jared Bernhardt made one of those plays that only the top players can make. He split a pair of defenders, moving up the field, and was somehow able to turn and get a perfect shot on goal. The Lake Brantley was now only one goal down.
The Rams would stretch it back out to a two goal lead after a busted clear led to a first, then a second, then a third effort on the unsettled transition and Walker Mays was finally able to get a shot past Markiewicz. With 10:42 left in the game it was 10-8 Lake Mary.
The Rams looked to slow it way down and drew a stall warning with over five minutes left on the clock. As Lake Brantley continued to mount the defensive pressure the ball finally hit the ground. Lake Brantley had the ball momentary but couldn’t clear. Somewhere during the elongated scrum each team committed a slash and both teams would play a man down but Lake Brantley was awarded the ball.
On the five on five Jared Bernhardt looked to dodge to the goal but made a quit dump pass to Dylan Barnes. We knew Barnes’ shooting would at some point factor in and he picked a perfect time to dial it in and rifled one past Lerch to bring the game to 10-9 with 3:41 left in the game.
This is when things got really weird.
For some reason, which I still don’t understand, the Lake Mary penalty released. When faced with being a man down and a goal down with time running low (there was 3:28 on the clock) Lake Brantley asked for a stick check.
The stick check request was rewarded with a three minute non-releasable penalty against Lake Mary. It didn’t take long for Jared Bernhardt to find the back of the net and tie it up at ten each. Brantley was still a man up for over two and half more minutes. The ensuing face off was huge. If Lake Mary could get possession they might have a chance to kill the penalty, if LB got the ball they would have an excellent chance to win the game.
Both face off men knew what was at stake and neither allowed the other any advantage. An extended ground ball battle resulted in Lake Brantley’s Cade Lennon running the ball down to the sideline and picking up his biggest GB of the year. Brantley head coach Jake Bernhardt called the time out and got his offense ready for a very important possession.
After letting most of the remaining EMO expire Jared Bernhardt hit Jake Butler and he put away the game winner with short time left in the game. A late hit flag on the play virtually iced the game for the Patriots as the call was after the goal awarding possession and the EMO to the Patriots. They killed the few remaining seconds and will advance to face Matanzas in the next round.
The exciting late game heroics gave Jake Bernhardt a new perspective. He had been the one providing the heroics so many times in his great playing career. “I got a new perspective. I’m on the sideline..I can’t go out there and do anything. It’s tough. You’re teaching high school kids things that are tough to do. They have to go out there and read and react. We play a college level system and we are asking these guys to go out and make reads, not just run plays, they have to make a read off of someone. We put a lot of pressure on them and they showed up. We are really fortunate with the seniors we have.”
Bernhardt saw everything working right in the first five minutes of the game. “We came out really well and went up three goals before the little things started to bite us.” He knows that they need to improve on clears, ground balls, and face offs moving forward. “Those first five or six minutes we were doing really well overall. Good offense, riding well, and our defense was picking up ground balls that they (Lake Mary) threw away on the clears.”
When asked where little brother Jared ranks on the family depth chart the highly competitive coach wasn’t ready to move him all the way to the top just yet. “I know he’s better at this point than both of us (Jake and brother Jesse) were in High School. I put a lot of that on being able to watch so much film and games. So much social media video out there. YouTube wasn’t around when I was in school, or at least I didn’t know about it. So he’s benefited from that and being able to come out and watch Maryland practices and being around so many great players and being able to pick their brains. He’s like a sponge, he just soaks all that up.”
He attributes much of Lake Brantley’s athleticism to the multi-sport athletes on the team. “This is the most we’ve had. We have at least ten guys that play football, and that’s not counting the JV team. We’ve always had that here. I played here and we have a good relationship with the football coach.”
I asked him what he thinks about the football coaches out there who don’t let their kids play lacrosse. “They should, it gives the kids something else to do instead of doing the same stuff over and over. Just like I don’t let our kids play lacrosse year round. I’ve never seen so many stress fractures and back problems in kids as young as 14 as we see now. That’s from repetitive motion. I tell our kids go play something else. Even if it’s just at a recreational level. Baseball, basketball, whatever. Just do something else. I think that football coaches should let their kids try other things. St. Thomas Aquinas is a program that got very good in a short amount of time. I’m sure some of those kids were football players at one time. Kids there are born with a pigskin in their hands and some of them become excellent lacrosse players.”