For just a moment, it felt like a storybook ending was in store for Lambert’s boys lacrosse team.
The Longhorns, the defending Class 6-7A state champions that were vying for another on Saturday, were in an unfamiliar position late in their title matchup with Walton: They were behind, not by one, but by a more daunting three goals with just six minutes to play.
The black-clad Lambert fans standing in Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw were almost silent, while the adjacent Walton fans shouted ‘We can’t hear you!’ towards them. It briefly seemed like Lambert’s title reign would end in a whimper.
But with 5:42 left, Gerard Kane gave the Longhorns hope with his second goal of the day. The clock ticked on, though, and with under a minute left, Lambert needed a miracle.
Benny O’Rourk delivered it. With 54 seconds to play, he camped in front of the net, took a pass from behind the cage and scored to narrow the deficit to one. Lambert lost the ensuing faceoff, but got the ball back just in time for one last chance, and with five seconds left in regulation, O’Rourk took a Kane pass and delivered the tying score, sending the Longhorns and their previously subdued fans into a frenzy.
BENNY. O’ROURKE. He scores two goals for Lambert in the final minute of regulation, with this one tying it with 0.1 left. 7-7. Wow. pic.twitter.com/84Aqu2KKoB— David Almeda (@Dave_Almeda) May 18, 2019
But that feeling left almost as soon as it arrived. Walton, who had scored just 39 seconds into the second half to tie it, added another quick strike goal to conclude sudden death overtime just 18 seconds after it began. The Longhorns watched in disbelief as the Raiders sprinted towards their fans to celebrate a thrilling 8-7 victory.
“It's painful,” Wehman said. “Sports are tough, winning championships (is) tough, and I think that's what makes it so special. They can walk out of there holding their heads high.”
The game had a defensive feel early, but Lambert took a 2-0 lead midway through the first quarter with goals from Kane and Quinn O’Donnell. Walton quickly responded, tying the game at 2-2 before the second quarter began.
O’Rourk added his first two goals of a team-leading four in the second quarter. His final goal of the period came with 11.6 left to the half, giving Lambert a 4-3 lead.
“(Walton) played a great defensive game and I knew they would be good,” Wehman said. “You don't get this far not being good. They played a great game -- you've got to give them credit.”
After the Raiders quickly tied the game early in the third, they took their first lead with 2:29 left in the quarter, ultimately taking their three-point lead by winning plenty of possessions off of faceoffs late.
“We kind of knew we had that challenge going into the offseason,” Wehman said. “It’s high school sports --it's not like you can recruit. They’ve gotten a lot better and they've actually done a great job this year. (Walton's) guy just did a great job today.”
Lambert loses a good amount of key seniors from the team's last two years, but they're still confident in the future of the program.
“It's a good group of guys,” O’Rourk said. “There's a bunch of younger kids who will step up next year and fill spots that need to be filled. I think they'll be good next year.”
For the immediate future though, the Longhorns are feeling nothing but heartbreak. They didn’t achieve their goal of two consecutive titles, but in time, they hope they can appreciate everything they were able to accomplish.
“For the next couple of days, they're going to be dealing with that, but they're going to be able to think about what a great experience they've had since they've been here,” Wehman said. “Eventually, that'll put a smile on their face.”