CAPITOL HEIGHTS – Gwynn Park High School boys lacrosse attacker Chrystian Coleman was visibly frustrated heading into halftime. After taking the majority of the team’s 16 first-half shots, Coleman could only muster to score two goals.
As he walked toward the bench, his coaches Gary Smith and Keith Brice reminded each Yellow Jacket attacker to take their time with shots, stand steady and aim low when shooting.
“We weren’t moving the ball around enough, and our midfielders could have done a better job at bringing the ball up the field,” Coleman said. “But when we got to the second half, we picked it up. The game was a little too close for my liking, so I stepped up and started shooting.”
The sophomore heeded the advice, and in the fourth quarter, it paid off. Coleman added three more goals, including the game-winner, to give the Yellow Jackets (2-0) a 6-5 road victory over Central on March 29.
Coleman, a transfer student from St. Charles High School in Charles County, played lacrosse last year for the first time and was content on playing it despite moving during the summer. After learning the sport existed in his new high school, Coleman signed on, hoping to add more attacking power to the Brandywine-based team.
After a scoreless first quarter, Coleman received a 40-yard darting pass from goalie Preston Ronck to set up a counterattacking goal, opening up the scoring account for the visitors. He added a second goal with three minutes remaining in the second quarter after forcing a Central defender to commit a turnover, picking up the loose ball and scoring a high-post shot.
Despite Gywnn Park’s early offensive success, Central (0-2) used its size and power advantage early to knock off shooters off-target all game long. Their physical nature tired out their fatigued visitors midway through the second quarter, leaving holes on the defensive end. Attackers Tino Tores and Samuel Musong took advantage, scoring two goals in three minutes, to tie the game.
With a minute remaining in the second quarter, returning goal-scorer Antonio Lopez muscled his way toward the net to give the Falcons a 3-2 edge. After only scoring five goals last season, Central Head Coach Timothy Paterniti said the junior will feature in a more prominent role of the Falcons offense.
“(Lopez) has more of a starring role because some of the seniors have graduated and he quickly stepped into that position,” Paterniti said. “He’s been working hard at practice, and on his own, so I think he has a bright future in this sport.”
Down a goal, the Yellow Jackets came out of the intermission with more accuracy in their passing while taking less but more on-target shots. They continued to build off the possessions won through face-offs, winning nine of the game’s 14 battles.
Sophomore midfielder Edward Porterfield, who focused on bringing in his teammates into the game with connecting passes, bulldozed through the heart of the defense and scored the tying goal.
Meanwhile, Gywnn Park’s speed and passing began to wear down the robust style of Central's strategy. Regular tackles turned into hard fouls as the Falcons were called for five technical infractions, four in the second half.
“(Central) was very physical,” Coleman said. “We are used to it, and we had to be a little bit more physical than them.”
Coleman completed his hat-trick seconds into the fourth quarter, slamming down a quick one-timer off a Porterfield assist. The sophomore attacker scored his final two goals midway through the final period, even receiving a diagonal pass from freshman John Copes for Gwynn Park’s sixth goal of the game.
The Falcons continued to battle through the fatigue as Lopez scored two fourth-quarter goals, completing his hat-trick, bringing the lead down to one with 2:27 left. However, their inability to win the final face-off and Gwynn Park’s ball movement killed any chances of a Falcon comeback.
“We just got out of shape, and we got a little tired,” Paterniti said. “I thought we played really solid for most of the game and we got ahead. We just ran out of steam near the end.”
The victory was a small taste of Gwynn Park's plans to bring to the table this season after losing to Largo in the regional semifinals last year. With no seniors listed on their roster and 10 juniors leading the squad, the Yellow Jackets hope that their younger unit can excel through all the expectation