Upper Arlington High School boys lacrosse coach Ted Wolford spent much of last week reminding his players that even though two familiar opponents stood between them and a second consecutive Division I state championship, history meant little.
That didn't mean this title victory didn't bear a strong resemblance to last year's, however.
The Golden Bears defeated OCC-Buckeye Division rival Dublin Jerome 7-6 in the state final June 8 at Marv Moorehead Stadium. They had beaten the Celtics by the same score in the 2012 final.
And just like last year, UA needed a late goal to win, and the Bears got it from junior attacker Cam Marsh with 2 minutes, 3 seconds to play.
Marsh found himself in an opportune spot and was able to capitalize on a rebound after a teammate, sophomore attacker Justin Wick, missed the net. On Wick's shot attempt, the ball bounced between two Jerome defenders to Marsh, who snuck a shot past Celtics goalkeeper Austin Paalz.
Last year, 2012 graduate Eliot Allen scored the winning goal while falling backward with 2:20 left.
"It was one of those things that happened to turn out (well) for us," Marsh said. "You have to be in position. The game-winning goal was really the Grant Gould-to-Zac Stowe goal (with 4:38 to play that tied the game at 6), and I was just fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time at the end there."
Senior goalie Jack Warmolts made two saves in the final 28 seconds to secure UA's third state championship in four years and 14th overall. The Bears finished 20-2 overall, winning their final six games and 12 of their final 13.
"I was busy," said Warmolts, who finished with 11 saves, compared to five for Paalz. "(Jerome was) hot. They got great looks. They're a high-powered offense and our defense did a good job for the most part containing them as much as we could."
Senior midfielder Zach Shy and Stowe, a senior attacker, both scored two goals to lead the Bears and Marsh, senior attacker Gus Ackley and Gould, a senior midfielder, each scored one.
Attackers Shawn Ewert and Mikey Bano each scored two goals for Jerome, which finished 16-7 and also lost to UA in OCC-Buckeye play, 10-6 on April 30.
The state final was tied at 3 at halftime, tied at 4 late in the third quarter and tied at 5 with 8:14 left on a goal by Bano. Twenty-five seconds later, Jerome scored again to take a 6-5 lead on a goal by attacker Tanner Barco with 7:49 left.
The Celtics had chances to add to their lead with five minutes remaining but couldn't capitalize.
Moments later, Gould assisted on Stowe's equalizer.
"We weren't always patient," said coach Ted Wolford, who has guided UA to 12 state titles in 21 seasons.
"For our seniors, it's extra pressure when you play at home and you feel like you have to win the game instead of relaxing and enjoying the game. That's what we really wanted to do, understand it is supposed to be fun. I think for a while they felt too much pressure. They started to see that if they could relax and make better decisions, they could enjoy the situation. We gained confidence as the game rolled on."
Despite reaching the Division I state final for the second consecutive year after winning Division II state titles in 2010 and 2011 and having beaten UA twice in the 2012 season, Jerome coach A.J. Auld dismissed any talk that his team is closing in on the Bears for area dominance.
"We'd like to come out on the (winning) side," Auld said. "When you lose, you lose. We're not satisfied with being close. We're not satisfied with losing a one-goal game. Not many people in the crowd thought we were going to give Upper Arlington the type of game that we did, but we thought we were going to. I felt we did give them a really good game, and our guys expected to come out here and win."
UA defeated Mason 7-5 in a state semifinal June 5 at Centerville, avenging a 6-5 loss to the Comets on April 26.
Wick and junior midfielder Kyle Roberts both scored two goals and Warmolts had 10 saves to lead the Bears, who took command with first-quarter goals from Wick, Roberts and Ackley.