By Nelson Coffin

Early arrivals to the Final Four in Baltimore this weekend might want to expand their horizons a little and take in some boys' high school championship action Friday night at Towson University.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, which comprises the top private school squads in the Baltimore-Annapolis area, will feature three title contests. The 7:30 p.m. main event for the coveted A Conference crown, with upstarts Calvert Hall (17-4) and St. Mary's (12-6), could be a show-stopper. Both pulled off surprisingly easy six-goal triumphs in the semifinals Tuesday to land in the final. Calvert Hall smoked archrival Loyola Blakefield (12-4), 16-10, after the Saints drilled Boys' Latin, 11-5. Neither team was expected to be anywhere near the final, according to preseason speculation.

The Cardinals have not been in the playoffs since bowing to Boys' Latin in 1997. They last finished on top 20 years before that. St. Mary's won the title in 1996 and has missed the postseason every year since.

The teams split contests during the season with the Saints prevailing, 11-10, in Annapolis. Calvert Hall returned the favor on its home field in Towson when they spotted the Saints a 3-0 advantage and rallied to win going away, 9-5. Calvert Hall and St. Mary's tied (with Gilman) atop the divisional standings with a 9-4 mark. The Cards boast teammates who will go against each other in the upcoming Under-19 World Championships in late June. Standout junior attackman Kevin Huntley will play for Canada while senior midfielder Nick Williams will go for the U.S.

Huntley, whose dad hails from north of the border, will get another test of what it will be like to face a defender when he matches up with St. Mary's 6-5, 215-pound longstick Eric Zerrlaut. "St. Mary's should be a war," said Calvert Hall Coach Bryan Kelly, a former North Carolina defender. "They're a lot like us. And as a lacrosse person, I like to think think we play lacrosse the right way." The Cardinals prefer to run up and down the field. They are athletic and deep enough to keep the pace crisp and the scorekeeper busy.

In the beginning of the year - and even now to some extent - rivals think of the Hall as a two-man (Huntley and Williams) show. Lately, however, more Cards are contributing. For instance, Huntley was shut out in a 10-9 victory over Loyola in the season finale and junior middie Kevin Buchanan responded when he chipped in three goals and two assists. Others, like, senior faceoff specialist Matt Eckerl, junior middie Shane Nigrin and sophomore running mate Phil Blevins, have given the Hall's offense a boost of late.

St. Mary's is no slouch in that department, either. The Saints scored one more goal during the season than Calvert Hall, proving they have plenty of firepower as well. Sophomore Mike Zurfluh, an integral part of St. Mary's championship B Conference basketball squad, led the Saints with three goals in the BL upset. Classmate Christian Pastirik and junior Garrett Stanwick had a pair of goals apiece. That trio alone should give the Cardinal defense moments of unease.

Other than the Zerrlaut-Huntley war, the other confrontation to keep an eye on will be the battle at the faceoff X between mammoth middie Will Dalton, who tips the scales at around 240 pounds and the scrappy, 5-foot-8, 170-pound Eckerl. "Zerrlaut is a tremendous player with great size," said Kelly. "He's a good athlete who knows how to play the game. But Kevin is the toughest kid I've ever coached."

"I think it will be really close," added Calvert Hall's sophomore goalie Jeremy Blevins, who was credited with 27 saves in the Card win over the Saints. "They're good shooters."

The B Conference final will pit Archbishop Spalding against John Carroll in a 5 p.m.preliminmary. Chapelgate will take on Tom Marachek's Glenelg Country at 3 for the C Conference title.

Towson Stadium can be reached from I-695. Take the Charles St. exit south and follow to the 3rd traffic lite at Towsontown Blvd. Go left to the next traffic signal at Osler Drive and hang a right. Follow the signs.

May 22, 2003

What are you doing this Summer?

June 26-July 5 at Towson University