"This is going to be easy," John McEvoy thought.
His Malvern Prep Friars were attempting to kill the clock with a one-goal lead in the closing minutes of a crucial Inter-Ac League boys' lacrosse game at Episcopal Academy on April 16.
Because of a 2013 rule change that no longer required a team to keep the ball in the box in the final two minutes of a game, Malvern Prep used the entire half of the field to spread the ball around and maintain possession.
"It's easy to kill the clock with these new rules," McEvoy joked with his coaches.
But something went wrong for Malvern Prep during those final two minutes, and it has changed the outcome of the Inter-Ac season.
Episcopal goalie Colin Reder came out of the cage to double-team a Friar, and the move helped force a turnover. Episcopal's Tyler Chambers scooped up the ground ball and moved it to Ian Strain, who buried the game-tying goal with a little more than a minute remaining.
Strain went on to score the winner almost two minutes into overtime, handing Malvern Prep its first and, thus far, only loss of the season.
"We learned a lot from that loss," McEvoy said. "It ate at everybody for a long time. We probably weren't as prepared as we should have been, but we learned a lot."
That game's outcome became much more important to the Inter-Ac standings with Malvern Prep's decisive, 11-5 victory at home against the Churchmen last Friday. With a second win against the Friars, Episcopal could have clinched at least a share of its first Inter-Ac title since 1998.
But now, the Inter-Ac will be decided by Malvern's and Episcopal's respective games Friday. The Friars will host the league's bottom team, and the Churchmen will face a must-win against the league's most historic program having an off-year. Malvern and Episcopal enter Friday tied atop the standings.
Malvern Prep, 13-1 overall and 6-1 in the league, will host Germantown Academy at 3:45 p.m. Friday. The Patriots are 2-15 and last in the Inter-Ac.
Episcopal (14-4, 6-1) will host Haverford School (11-7, 4-3) on Friday night.
With a win, Malvern Prep would clinch at least a share of the league title. To secure their share, the Churchmen would need to win against the Fords, who could be looking to play spoiler after losing in overtime at home to Episcopal on April 23.
Malvern senior Joe Carlini, who committed to Johns Hopkins after his sophomore year, said the Friars plan to make the trip to Episcopal after their game.
"I think we're all going to try to go to the game and cheer on Haverford," Carlini said.
Carlini said he has been "kept on his toes" in his final season in the Inter-Ac, one that was more wide open than usual for him, but still made for one of the most competitive leagues in the area.
"It puts a lot of pressure on each game, but that's one thing our team has really enjoyed," Carlini said. "If we lose one or two games, we'd be done."
Other boys' titlists. In the boys' Central League, Radnor and Conestoga won Tuesday to capture a share of the league title. The Pioneers and Red Raiders each finished 10-1 in league play.
Upper Dublin won, 10-7, at Plymouth Whitemarsh on Tuesday to finish as the undefeated Suburban One League American Conference champ. Hatboro-Horsham also finished undefeated and won the Suburban One Continental title, and Abington captured the National Conference.
La Salle completed its Catholic League dominance on Monday with a 15-5 win against Roman Catholic. The Explorers finished 10-0 in league play.
Girls' league winners. The girls' Central League finished with a four-way tie for the title. Harriton, Strath Haven, Radnor, and Springfield (Delco) each went 9-2 in league play.
Hatboro-Horsham clinched its second straight Suburban One Continental championship with an 18-11 victory at Pennridge on Monday. Upper Dublin beat Plymouth Whitemarsh, 16-7, at home to win the Suburban One American.
With a 7-0 conference record, Pennsbury is the Suburban One National champ.