One problem with the current ban on spectators at Sunshine State Conference games is that it took away MY outlet for just going to a game, relaxing in the stands (and in the parking lot where a minor nefarious adult beverage MIGHT have been) and just watching a game I had no need to take notes for. All the SSC schools have dedicated Sports Information providers and just about all the material you see here on these schools are provided by the colleges themselves as press releases.
So when I had a free Saturday, usually early evening since Lynn played a lot of home games around 6:00pm, it was time to kick back and just watch a great game for fun (and FREE, since Lynn does not charge admission – although it’s hard to say no to the hot dog and/or hamburger sold). I don’t get to do that at a high school game but I do try once a year to cover a game like I were a fan and last night was a good opportunity since SJP was hosting a depleted Boca Raton team and it was a decent possibility that the game would not be close.
Of course I didn’t go to the game thinking that was going to happen; in this role I am always on the alert for the big upset and the note taking is ‘just in case’. But after SJP jumped out to the 7-0 lead after the first, and kept scoring in the second, it looked like I could transition to my original thinking.
This time of the season usually shows a few distinct ways a team is playing. For those who are playing well and truly think they could win a District the intensity dials up as they use the last few games to work out the kinks, get players healthy and mentally gear up for the homestretch. For those schools that are playing out the string you see a lack of intensity and some stat padding. And there are the teams in the middle that are having okay seasons but have resigned themselves to knowing one District win is a success. SJP is in the first category and Boca is kind of between the 1st and 3rd, but quite possibly a District winner.
Of course the parents who made the trip to the game for the natural rivalry (about a mile apart as the crow flies) were both expecting their side to prevail. They didn’t get to play last season and their last meeting, in the 2019 District Semifinal, ended in high controversy, as an OT goal decided the game . . . unfortunately the ‘goal’ was caught on video and it clearly didn’t enter the net . . . so anticipation was a little more ramped up from the SJP standpoint.
Both of these coaches have been known by me for quite a while, but from two different ways. SJP Head Coach ANDREW Bolger (got to make that sure going forward, as noted in the after-game interview) was one of the founding fathers of lacrosse down here. Plenty of lacrosse AND non-lacrosse accomplishments on the resume – see Stolzenberg, Mikey – has done it all except for one thing, an elusive district title in the land of Saint Andrew’s. Even this year, with quite possibly his best team, COVID stuck out it’s tongue and cancelled the SA-SJP game.
Boca Raton Head Coach Calder Alfano is from a very different path. A classmate of my son at Boca, my first coverage of him was as a walk-on at Duke, where he made the team and was captured on film muscling Myles Jones off the alley . . . well, the picture certainly looked like that to me anyhow. A knee injury ended the Duke career and after a stint of coaching in the Tampa area, made his way back to his alma mater as teacher and head lacrosse coach, replacing Chris Holly. Also along the way he managed to discover his classmate’s business and that friendship was kindled over some high caloric content. The fresh baked content, not the ones that are labeled ‘Lite’.
These schools have been playing knock down/drag out games for years and in a few of them they both reached Top 10 status in our polls. I’ve covered a number of them over the years and they almost always played the 2-3 seed game in District.
In other words, you normally would expect a close game every time.
One thing I want to bring up is how this time of the season is for me too.
There’s a dynamic to this that plays on me; the dynamic of saying goodbye to parents I’ve come to know as their kids progressed through their high school years, from benchwarmer to contributor to starter. No matter how big a fan of the sport they are the true fact is that very few parents continue to come out for the games after their kids have moved on and then it’s maybe a game here or there in the following years. We tend to laugh at how FLN basically needs to re-market itself every few years but it really is true.
I get to know many of them, their knowledge of the sport, how much they help out . . . even their pre-game rituals like the proper candy to eat in the stands. I didn’t inquire if there was a ‘plain vs peanut’ aspect to the ritual but superstitions do exist among fandom. Just like some players. I remember one D1 goalie who’s superstition was putting a letter from his mom inside his pads. These are the little things I get to know about and there the things I miss as they pass on to their next life stage.
Anything and everything to give their side an edge, no matter what form it takes.
The site of SJP also holds a funny memory back in my early writing days, based on this scoreboard:
Only the privileged get those details, although if you prove you’ve SUBSCRIBED to our YouTube channel you might get the story!
One thing I always do when arriving at a game is to take a close look at the uniforms and particularly the numbers. If there was one thing Coach Bolger has struggled with from my perspective, it’s been his color choices of the uniforms. In the past he’s made my Top 3 for difficult to read numbers. Pale Blue and Dull Gray are great colors individually but when put together without an outline around the numbers it made for a night of squinting. It was on those nights I was thankful for Matt Chaloux in the press box next to me. Last night’s was much improved so I hope he doesn’t get another streak of creativity next season!
Another thing that jumped out to me was how good the shape of the field was. In past years, with a healthy home schedule, the field would be roughed up pretty good but this was only the second or third game here and it looked great.
One of the COVID protocols last night was having the two groups of fans sit on opposite sides of the field. Boca fans behind their player’s bench and SJP in their normal bleachers. I sat on the player side last night since there was a bag of Wintergreen Lifesavers on the scoring table that was open and available. One referee celebrated Passover with me by providing a handful of candy with a throwing motion clearly learned at Bar Mitzvahs (consider that the more palatable version of the Scoreboard story).
Separating the fans in this way was clearly genius, as it gave the referees a more stereophonic version of call complaints . . . kind of like surround sound versus the Victrola era. Could be pretty loud either way. But given how the score mounted it was more good-spirited than normal and as the night went on there was a lack of intensity of voice, and FAR more appreciation of the game itself.
One thing I found amusing, pointed out by one of the Boca photographers as I was writing a note down about it, was the use of AC/DC’s Hell’s Bells as the ‘march onto the field’ music, accompanied by a small smoke trail. It’s kind of halfway though; like hiding something from your parents. But considering Saint John Paul’s contributions to knocking off the Soviet Union (they were very extensive) you could make a case that the music was fine with him . . .
I spoke to ANDREW first when I got there and we talked about how the kids had come together and progressed over the year and how great a group they were, focused on how much he enjoyed coaching this group. Jen Kennedy walked by and said hello and that kind of figured into things later too.
After catching up I headed over to Calder who first accused me of buttering him up with the Boca-Benjamin video clip posted earlier in the day . . . well Calder, you have to understand that the post did cause some consternation among others . . . first a Coach sent in his vote for Coral Springs over SA in the late 90’s and then some guy named Shane texted me insisting the best comeback was the Dwyer-Benjamin state title game that Nick O’Leary was playing in for Dwyer but I said I needed video proof.
Boy, those Benjamin people really are protective of their history!
The game did get into running time but one thing I noticed on the Boca bench was that there wasn’t any finger pointing and the coaching staff kept them focused. And in the stands the parents kept it upbeat too.
At halftime the first song played was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons with “Oh, What A Night” . . . I don’t know it that was on purpose or just coincidental, but the title was certainly appropriate for the Eagle’s fans. I do happen to like a lot of the revival period of that group and it isn’t hard to understand one interesting Casey Kasem factoid from last week’s Sirius 70’s on 7 Top 40 Countdown, when Casey’s trivia question was ‘what all-white group had the most Top 10 hits on the R&B charts?’. Yes, kids and Cancel Culture experts, we used to actually discuss those things without freaking out.
And the answer was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
I had a nice surprise in the second half.
Jen Kennedy has posted comments over the years on our Facebook page articles and she gave us a nice shout out for being there to cover the game.
Thank you Jen!
The game ended 18-1 and SJP substituted liberally in the second half, and even had the second string in to start the 2nd quarter. They are deep on both sides of the ball, have solid goaltending (as I witnessed at Benjamin) and the defense goes 6 deep.
On offense, there were NINE goal scorers last night, led by Travis Dick’s 5G/3A and Matt Evans with 3G/1A. 10 of the 18 goals were assisted and all of them were properly earned.
I enjoyed the off-ball movement.
This is a dangerous team going forward.
Boca never stopped playing hard but sometimes you run into a buzzsaw and SJP is sharpened steel right now.
Here’s COACH BOLGER after the game:
(Note: if anyone can tell me how to allow MY YOUTUBE VIDEOS to be embedded, please let me know. Is there some sort of Setting I need to allow anyone to embed/share these?)
For those who missed my tweet as this is being written the Saint Andrew’s-Benjamin game was cancelled due to a COVID situation at SA and this is pins and needles time for the Scots. Districts start April 12th and 3th and if this is ruled a 14-day suspension that well could be the season and that makes it potentially an earthquake situation for the 1A brackets.
I would still love to see the Scots and the Eagles face off together. Oxbridge-SA in 2016 and Boca-SA in 2015 were epic games . . . I’m getting the same itch to see this one too
The night wasn’t a total waste for Coach Alfano. A couple of more calories were consumed at Boca’s most popular baked goods store, as we talked into the night.
Sometimes you just have to put it behind you.
And sometimes you just need to go to a game and just take in the atmosphere . . . and remember from now on, it’s always ANDREW, not Andy!