RR contributor Will Kiley was on hand at the Landon School as they took on fellow Top 25 team St. Mary’s. Here are a few of his notes from the Bears’ big win.
On Friday the 13th, No. 21 St. Mary’s (Md.) Saints traveled down I-95 to the friendly confines of Triplett Field to play the No. 13 Landon (Md.) Bears. The matchup was talked about very heavily in the area, with both teams coming in to this season with quite a bit of hype. Earlier in the week, Landon dismantled Dallas Jesuit (Tex.), 13-4. In quite the surprise, Landon did the same to the Saints with a final score of 14-5. The boys in blue came in with a highly touted senior-laden defense but as it turned out, they were bested by the Bears’ highly potent O.
While the seniors are usually the ones that lead the way for a team, Landon’s young offense was dangerous and effective all day. It started with the attack unit of No. 34 senior Colton Rupp (Cornell), No. 3 sophomore Nate Buller (Duke) and highly touted freshman Joey Epstein (Hopkins). Each contributed two goals apiece, while Epstein and Buller had three and one assists, respectively. The attack unit worked well together and played their roles perfectly. The midfield was expected to take a heavy hit with graduation losses, but the unit surprised almost everyone at the game. Seniors Koko Avedisian (Hobart) and Kennedy Dunn (Trinity) and No. 34 sophomore Ryan Pride (Virginia) flowed well, constantly dodging and re-dodging to create matchup problems. However the real star of the midfield was junior Griffin Brown (Colgate), who fired in six goals for the Bears and really showed his improvements from last season. The game was expected to come down to which unit could win the battle between the Landon offense and the Saints poles of junior Kane Randolph (Penn State), seniors Tommy Miller (Navy), Hunter Smith (Maryland) and Bryce Carrasco (Loyola). While the Bears offense used quick ball movement and strong off-ball play, the defense for the Saints played hard and checked harder. Carrasco will be a tough player when he gets to Loyola in the fall, similar to the style of Marquette’s B.J. Grill. Tommy Miller is a big body standing at 6’5, using all of that to deliver hard and physical body checks. Hunter Smith is now in his fourth year as a starter for St. Mary’s and it shows in his mastery of the defense and excellent communication. He’ll do excellent picking up the schemes and contributing when he gets to College Park.
While Coach Rubeor’s boys played valiantly on offense, they could not get anything consistently going. Junior Jake Carraway (Georgetown) was the bright spot of the top six today and had his number called to go to the goal. On the other side Landon’s defense of seniors Tom Evans (Navy), Landon McKenzie (Dartmouth), Paul Paladino and sophomore Andrew Fowler (Cornell) were excellent in front of No. 46 senior netminder Hunter Sells (Hopkins) who had around 15 saves on the day. Maybe the lack of offense for the Saints was partially due to the fact that ace FOGO and No. 14 senior Alex Woodall (High Point) could not get consistent possession for his squad. The Saints got the ball off face-offs for the most part if Woodall won it to himself. If it became a free for all ground ball, the Bears usually won it. Landon’s duo of senior Jarrett Witzal (Bucknell) and sophomore Justin Shockey went approximately 50% against arguably the top drawman in the country.
In all, Landon has a phenomenal team. It is even better that they are already playing like it’s the IAC finals. Their defense is big, athletic, rangy and tough – not the kind a flashy attack group like St. Mary’s needed to face. The Bears were physical early and often, throwing the Saints completely off their groove. The Saints will be good by the end of the season, but unfortunately they have only 24 hours from this defeat before they take on Brodie Merrill’s Hill Academy from Ontario. I’m sure St. Mary’s would love to come out and put it all out there against the Pride, as a win would definitely help boost morale in Annapolis.