ROSWELL – In the melee after the Lambert Longhorns boys’ lacrosse team’s 6-5 loss to Roswell in the Class AAAAAA championship on Saturday – the stampede of Hornets fans on the field, the confluence of emotions in the visiting locker room – there wasn’t room enough to probably put everything into perspective.
Right there, zoomed in on that moment, was the kind of disappointment that just hangs in the air, on the shoulders and in the mind for a night, a week, a month, a year, a lifetime.
“You’re always searching for that one goal at the end of the season,” senior Sean Carruthers said. “You just want to end it right. It hurts a lot.”
Let’s zoom out a little. First, to see the season in which the Longhorns exhibited remarkable endurance. Lambert’s grueling schedule has already been well-documented, but it bears repeating – the Longhorns played 17 of its 22 games against teams ranked in the top 10 in California, Florida and Georgia. Its five losses, including Saturday at Ray Manus Stadium, were all by one goal. One was in overtime, another in double overtime.
Though Lambert ended the regular season tied for first place in Area 3-AAAAAA, it lost tiebreakers and became a third seed in the state playoffs, virtually guaranteeing the Longhorns had to win on the road to reach the state championship. And they did – against then-No. 10 North Gwinnett (11-3), then-No. 1 Harrison (8-7) and then-No. 2 Milton (12-8).
“When we saw the road to get there, we kind of laughed and said, ‘Wow, if we’re able to pull this off we’ll have really earned it,’” Lambert director of lacrosse Rich Wehman said. “So it’s tough. To go on the road and win against four really tough teams you have to be perfect.”
Zoom out a little more. Now, look at Lambert’s history. It’s been brief but extraordinary. Saturday was the Longhorns’ fourth straight state championship appearance. Lambert has never failed to reach at least the semifinals since the program began in 2010.
In more recognizable sports, these credentials start the debate about dynasties – Buford football, Columbus baseball, Miller Grove boys’ basketball, etc., etc.
Senior defender Logan Wood attributes the success to the work of Wehman and his coaching staff. Wood played on the Longhorns’ undefeated freshman team in 2011 and watched in the stands as Lambert won its first of two consecutive state titles.
“Coaches come in every day and tell us, ‘Do you want to win a state championship? Do you want to make it that far?’” Wood said. “Every day they just pushed us harder and harder.”
One of the least appreciated accomplishments in our modern sports culture is sustained excellence.
Longevity doesn’t fit into the nightly highlight reels where miraculous plays and incredible games fit the bill. It is the length of documentaries and short films. It is requires context and perspective.
There could be a highlight reel made for Lambert’s Saturday. It might show sophomore defenseman Justyn Jean-Felix’s crushing check late in the fourth quarter. It might show junior attackman Hunter Shepherd’s just-barely goal in the third quarter.
But all the highlights wouldn’t do justice to the scope of the Longhorns’ accomplishments.
“It’s been a great experience,” Carruthers said. “I couldn’t have asked for better coaches or better teammates. I’ve made lifelong friends. It’s been an awesome ride. It stinks to end this way, but that’s sports sometimes.”
Brian Paglia is sports editor of the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 770-205-8982 or follow him on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.