If there was a loose ball on the field Monday night, there was a good chance a South River defender was there to scoop it up.
The Seahawks dominated play on the defensive end, creating numerous turnovers that resulted in scoring chances on their way to an 8-5 victory over Arundel in the Class 4A East Region Section I final.
"We're as good as it gets when the ball hits the carpet," South River coach Paul Noone said.
South River got on the board early when the defense scooped up a loose ball and brought it across midfield into the waiting stick of Andrew Thomas. Thomas moved in toward the goal, faked high and shot low to put the Seahawks up, 1-0.
"We've been performing game in and game out," South River'sBilly O'Hara said. "We really try to take a lead in the game, try to get things going, get the offense into the game, kind of have everybody jump on the defense's back."
Arundel responded with two straight goals from Kevin Haag and Billy Nolan to gain a 2-1 advantage.
South River'sCraig Chick corralled the ensuing faceoff and fed Thomas, who streaked down the field for his second goal to tie the game at 2.
"All week long, into last week, these guys have been working hard and it's been paying dividends," Noone said.
Gunnar Schimoler connected on his shot midway through the first quarter to give the Seahawks a 3-2 lead.
Jake Lawson tied it up for the Wildcats midway through the second, but less than two minutes later, South River'sBrandon Senft found a wide open Dylan Mansur, who made a nifty behind-the-back shot over the shoulder of Arundel goalie Andrew Jones to give the Seahawks a 4-3 lead that lasted to halftime.
Jones stopped 12 shots on the night.
South River's defense dominated action throughout the game, picking up loose balls, causing turnovers and limiting Arundel's scoring chances. Long pole defenders Chick, O'Hara and Hugh McMullen, along with the entire unit set the tone early and never made things easy for the Wildcats.
"People compare them to people across the county, I say they're uncomparable," Noone said. "They're as good as it gets as a unit."
Arundel battled back in the second half, with Lawson scoring his second goal following a clear by Nolan to knot the game at 4. But, Jeffrey Hirata's spin-move goal three minutes later put the Seahawks ahead for good with four minutes remaining in the third.
Grant Maloof scored two consecutive goals for some insurance, and Mansur's second put the Seahawks up 8-4 with just over two minutes remaining.
"South River had a good game plan and executed it well," Arundel coach Kevin Necessary said. "Our kids played with everything inside of them."
The game was halted with 1:41 left due to lightning. After a nearly one-hour delay, play resumed with the Wildcats' Jordan Stewart assisting on Logan Hills goal to cut the deficit to 8-5. Arundel gained the ensuing faceoff, but after alternating turnovers, the horn sounded and South River advanced with an 8-5 win.
The Seahawks faced some adversity coming into the contest, with starting goalie Charlie Palandati unable to play as a result of a penalty from the team's game against Chesapeake last week. Joseph McElehenny stepped in and made five saves, and he had a stalwart defense assisting him.
"Our defense is playing incredible," Thomas said. "Billy (O'Hara) and Craig (Chick), one-on-one they can take it every time, and Joe stepped up, made some big saves. Altogether, our defense was great."
South River hosts Leonardtown on Wednesday for the region championship, and Noone has the utmost respect for his squad.
"I'm proud of these kids," he said. "I'd go to bat for them all day long. I'm with them."
Arundel (14-3) 2 1 1 1 -- 5
South River (14-2) 3 1 2 2 -- 8
GOALS: AR -- Lawson 2, Haag, Nolan, Hill; SR -- Thomas 2, Mansur 2, Maloof 2, Schimoler, Hirata. ASSISTS: AR -- Stewart; SR -- Chick, Senft, Schimoler. SAVES: AR -- Jones 12; SR -- McElhenny 5. SHOTS: AR -- 13; SR -- 24. FACEOFFS: AR -- 9; SR -- 8. GROUND BALLS: AR -- 18; SR -- 29