What a year that has passed by . . . for the first time the playing of the sport took a back seat to outside the lines.
One of the questions on my Preseason Questionnaire I send to coaches includes “What Are The Games You Are Really Looking Forward To This Season?”. In a normal year I’ll either get something like 3 names, with a rivalry as number one. Or I might get something like ‘all of them’ or a variation of it.
This year, the overwhelming one is “Any, we learned last year how precious each game is”.
In lacrosse AND in life. Usually I deal with one or two bad stories a year. A death or a catastrophic injury. This past 12+ months they just kept coming and NONE of them were Covid-related. Add the effect of that on top and you have the reason why so many of us just are thankful we have an upcoming season.
Lucas Alvarez, Westminster Academy . . . Saxton Dunlap, Riverview-Sarasota . . . Roger Bradford, Jr., JTAA lacrosse . . . Trina Mangano, Internationally-rated referee and Mom of three Vero Beach players . . . and FBI Agent/Lacrosse Mom Laura Schwartzenberger . . . RIP
Mark Bavaro, Cardinal Mooney . . . Jacob Webb, Jr., King’s Academy . . . PLL star Chris Bocklet (injured in Delray Beach) . . . we all are rooting for you to recover regardless of the prognosis.
We can also be thankful that a few of the bad new stories are starting to turn around.
Jacob Webb, Jr. has been recovering and might well return to the sport shortly.
Chris Bocklet is also on the way back and things are looking much better for him for him.
Mike Bavaro is the one facing the biggest challenge but word is he’s got the right mindset to face it!
Our prayers for ALL of you and your families.
We learned last year how precious every game is . . . Let’s NEVER FORGET.
ICYMI: @CRockN10 posted this update on Instagram over the weekend. Of the community's support, he says, "It motivated me more than I've ever been motivated in my life."— US Lacrosse Magazine (@USLacrosseMag) February 1, 2021
As ???? in Dialed In: https://t.co/JV6QEmz5Bp pic.twitter.com/ZTbtxvA5Q2
As far as predicting districts, playoffs and title winners, as well as Top 15 in each class . . . NEVER has it been tougher than this season. Last year’s results are a starting point but when you deep dive into the schedules you see a number of teams that had backloaded schedules so they didn’t get to play the meat of the schedule and their records don’t look quite as good. Some top programs played a number of tough games up front, losing some of them closely and their records don’t look as good on the surface. And some teams were clearly geared up for 2020 and have lost a LOT of their top players to graduation, and in some instances, to transfer, which seemed to happen more this year than most.
A lot of fans who look at the MaxPreps power rankings need to understand that most mathematical approaches to rankings have some flaws and need to not assume too much from them, particularly last year. These models are far more accurate AFTER the season is over, but even then I usually raise an eye brow at one or two of the Top 25, as they didn’t pass my eye test when I saw them play. Besides MaxPreps there are LaxNumbers and FanLax, both of which have ties to the old LaxPower, although I don’t think equally.
Laxnumbers broke out Florida by itself, but FanLax was a national ranking, and not too helpful because so many top programs never started their seasons.
So if you take a look at how MaxPreps and Laxnumbers handled their rankings you’ll see a lot of differences in how their mathematically calculations differ, and between them and me when I rank. Whenever I see a team in action I will always trust my eyes more than the math, but that’s me and I’m not infallable either.
Here’s the link to MaxPreps when the season was lost:
And here is their Top 25:
|1||Bishop Moore (Orlando)||8-0||24.0||8.4|
|2||Lake Highland Prep (Orlando)||8-1||21.8||9.7|
|3||IMG Academy (Bradenton)||5-1||21.4||13.0|
|7||Saint Andrew’s (Boca Raton)||8-1||18.4||6.0|
|8||King’s Academy (West Palm Beach)||7-1||18.2||6.4|
|11||American Heritage (Plantation)||7-1||17.6||7.2|
|12||Berkeley Prep (Tampa)||9-1||17.3||4.5|
|14||St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale)||6-1||16.1||3.7|
|17||Benjamin (Palm Beach Gardens)||6-2||15.8||9.0|
|18||Creekside (St. Johns)||6-2||15.2||8.2|
|22||Calvary Christian Academy (Fort Lauderdale)||7-1||13.5||0.5|
|23||Community School of Naples (Naples)||8-0||13.4||-3.3|
|24||All Saints’ Academy (Winter Haven)||6-0||13.4||-2.0|
|25||Oak Hall (Gainesville)||5-2||13.4||6.6|
Compare that to Laxnumbers, with the link here:
Their Top 25:
2020 Florida Rankings
|(last updated: 2020-05-04 20:54:13 EST)|
|3||Lake Highland Prep||8-1-0||91.83||4.66||87.17|
|6||St Andrews FL||8-1-0||90.15||5.00||85.15|
|7||St Thomas Aquinas FL||6-1-0||90.10||7.60||82.50|
|11||American Heritage Plantation||7-1-0||88.60||2.66||85.94|
|18||Calvary Christian Academy||7-1-0||86.68||5.80||80.88|
|21||Canterbury School FL||4-3-0||86.08||3.00||83.08|
There’s a LOT of disagreement
Now, MaxPreps does allow sorting by Classes, so you can look at those too at the link. MaxPreps had Plant as #1 in 2A, and while they are really good and will likely be better this year, they were not better than Ponte Vedra or Jupiter. It’s just math not being able to always handle Strength of Schedule properly. PV lost to Gilman in a close game and Boys’ Latin in a rout and Plant just doesn’t get to schedule a game like that.
Which brings me to my final ranking, from March 8th:
1) Ponte Vedra – back home this week, hope they got to have crab cakes at least once
2) Jupiter – right now the only team I’ve seen in Class 2A that can make it interesting for them
3) Creekside – Thursday at Maclay should be fun
4) St. Thomas Aquinas – fell to a resurgent LHP team on the road by one
5) Lake Mary – took care of then #6 Lake Brantley
6) HB Plant – big Cardinal Mooney win and plenty of good games left
7) Lake Brantley – not a bad loss, but needs to win these peer games
8) Newsome – treading water until the schedule kicks in
9) Gulf Coast – playing well but next year they need to kick it up in scheduling
10t) Winter Park – Bishop Moore loss looking better and better
10t) West Orange – next week’s schedule doesn’t offer much help
12) Riverview-Sarasota – I know, this is looking a lot like last week . . .
13) Boca Raton – nice Belen Jesuit win keeps them ranked
14) Fleming Island – Maclay loss was a little ugly, is the defense a problem after giving up 25 goals?
15t) Alonso – time to give them a nod, now take it from there!
15t) West Florida – 8-0 start but with their schedule they can’t afford a loss
Also Considered: Western, Columbus, Oviedo, Windermere, Viera, Steinbrenner, Stoneman Douglas, Hagerty, Wellington and Martin County
We’ll discuss other teams that are getting close but not yet in the thinking, and why.
Gulf Coast’s Maryland commit Trace Davidson and Ponte Vedra’s Denver commit Joe Taraboletti – Florida’s UnderArmour Game Watch Nominees!
1) Saint Andrew’s – now comes different challenges
2) King’s Academy – one goal shy of running the Top 5 gauntlet, very impressive against Oxbridge
3) Benjamin – biggest jump of the week after handling AH-Plantation and St. Edward’s
4) Bishop Moore – very impressive 2nd half shutout of Berkeley Prep
5) American Heritage-Plantation – plenty of time AND opponents to climb back up
6) Lake Highland Prep – big win over STA, it’s been a while since I could say that, primed for upward advancement with SIX Top 10 teams still to play!
7) Maclay – big Fleming Island win gets them some movement. Creekside next week and last game versus Ponte Vedra are the only good games left.
8) Oxbridge – Pine Crest win and two tough losses
This is where it gets tough, no one is winning the games against the teams above them or the schedule isn’t there yet
9) Calvary Christian – still undefeated and a couple of solid wins already, still plenty of work to do, such as Tuesday’s road trip to my Hobart buddy
10) Melbourne Central Catholic – on hold for another week
11) Oak Hall – can’t penalize then for a one goal road loss to Creekside, should run the table until the final game test
12) Pine Crest – big test Tuesday . . . why the 4:30 start?
13) Berkeley Prep – 24 minutes away from a big jump but BM just handled them
14) St. Edward’s – another school that needs a big win. So many close calls over the last few years.
15t) Cardinal Mooney – can they get healthy in time for a run?
15t) Tampa Jesuit – hanging in, also needs a big win
16) All Saints Academy – As long as you stay undefeated I’ll acknowledge it
Also Considered: Montverde Academy, Belen Jesuit, Canterbury, Gulliver Prep, St. Stephens Episcopal
So, what does this all mean? This year’s predictions will likely have some decent hits and misses . . .
But you wouldn’t read this if you weren’t interested!
Over the Christmas Break I attended Jingle Brawl and my favorite interview of the day was with Sarah Burlingame, former head coach of the Benjamin Girls, and for thsoe that missed it, here it is:
Former Benjamin HC Sarah Burlingame! https://t.co/Nxa6NS8X5w— FloridaLacrosseNews (@FloridaLX) December 20, 2020
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Some districts are STACKED and some will provide a playoff team that would not be there if power rankings were solely used, and in a few instances you might see a team rated below #100.
Such is the growing pain of the sport when the powers that be deem themselves sole judges of raising interest in the sport.
Oxbridge, Saint Andrew’s, King’s Academy and SJP II in ONE district. Same with Ponte Vedra, Nease and Creekside.
Teams That Lost A Lot And Will Struggle To Repeat 2020:
Lake Highland Prep
Teams To Watch As The Season Goes On (these teams are younger or are missing players to start because of other sports or overlooked last year):
Saint John Paul II
And then’s there’s the Panhandle . . .
If you aren’t paying attention, the Panhandle is starting to go lacrosse-crazy. Plenty of high school’s playing. A recent graduate reaching NCAA D2 All-American status in Noah Hass of Gulf Breeze.
Lots of local media coverage in the Pensacola media.
I can’t wait to see three years from now what they produce!
And the Girls might well get there before the Boys . . .
I’m going to handle the District predictions in a separate article and look at using some more Periscope video to roll some of that out. I finally broke down and went to the IPhone and might as well see how well it records for our Periscope interviews.
Stay tuned for that.
Which brings up another request. If you want us to take the next step and provide a substantially better platform as well as Fox Sports Florida broadcasts, PLEASE take a look at our GoFundMe that I just put up and see if you can help out. I’ve done this for nearly 8 years now as a labor of love and it’s time to see how much the efforts have been appreciated. FLN has NEVER asked for financial assistance but the limit of what we can do for free has been reached.
Here’s the LINK
The use of the funds is clearly laid out for you to review.
Right now, it certainly looks like Class 1A is well ahead of Class 2A in depth, making the idea of at-large bids even more important to build the best fields. Most of you know I thought the 2 classes were premature and a 64-team field with 32 at-large bids would have been a big boost to interest but Gainesville is pretty much on cruise control when it comes to classes at certain levels of participants.
Some good news is on the horizon. Sources in Gainesville indicate the FHSAA is still on track for at-large bids in 2022 and I hope to get an interview soon with Alex Ozuna, who oversees the sport there to confirm the direction.
Class 1A will also have some advantages in that private schools will have more latitude than the public schools when it comes to distance travelled to play games. Not all public schools are limited but many have a ‘contiguous county’ rule this year and that certainly affects some normal matchups we would see.
One benefit to that is some top programs are going to do what I suggested over the summer and play home and away games this season, so some of the top teams will be doing this. Jupiter is playing BOTH Benjamin and Saint Andrew’s home and away. They’ve loaded up as well as they could. On the other hand, some privates are going to travel to play top games.
Where we ALL lose out is that we will again see no MIAA teams cominng down here this season and that hurts.
So, don’t be surprised to see more poll movement than normal this year and a lot of that old bugaboo: A beats B, B beats C and C beats B . . .
Just to make my life even tougher doing this!
Final Four Predictions (Having learned two years ago to wait until I know how the quadrants get matched before picking it):
Ponte Vedra ( Region 1 – 1-4)
Winter Park (Region 2 – 5-8)
Plant (Region 3 – 9-12)
Jupiter (Region 4 – 13-16)
And there’s not a lot of likely variation. STA is Jupiter’s closest competition and they do play this year in the regular season. Boone might worry Winter Park. Ponte Vedra has a loaded district and Lake Mary always looms. But I can’t see Plant not getting there.
When you’re in the area, take a shot!
Maclay (Region 1 – 1-4)
Benjamin (Region 1 – 5-8)
Cardinal Mooney (Region 1 – 9-12)
Saint Andrew’s (Region 1 – 13-16)
Here we have a LOT of potential variation. Maclay and Oak Hall are on a collision course. Class 1A, 5-8 includes a Bishop Moore-LHP district final, a Benjamin-Saint Edward’s district final, and a lurking Montverde Academy on the rise, although it is likely still a little early for them. Home field for the quarterfinal will be big since the travel will likely be at least two hours. And Saint Andrew’s needs to get out of a loaded district and don’t be surprised if it is SJP II that gives them the most headache instead of Oxbridge and King’s Academy.
And I guess I made you wait l o o o o n g enough, and the coaches have had enough time to send back questionnaires (don’t blame me!), so let’s come up with a nice introductory video for this year’s Preseason Top 15 in both classes!
Since we still are socially distancing, what better song for the future than this blast from the past? Trust me kids, that background screeching WAS NOT ADDED, Beatlemania was a real thing.
2) Bishop Moore
3) Saint Andrew’s
4) Cardinal Mooney
6) St. Edward’s
8) Saint John Paul II
9) Lake Highland Prep
10) American Heritage-Plantation
11) Oak Hall
12) Berkeley Prep
13) King’s Academy
14) Gulliver Prep
Also Considered: All Saints Academy, Belen Jesuit, Bolles, Calvary Christian (Ft. Laud.), Episcopal of Jacksonville, Gulf Breeze, Melbourne Central Catholic, Jesuit (Tampa), Montverde Academy, Pine Crest
1) Ponte Vedra
4) St. Thomas Aquinas
6) Lake Mary
7) Winter Park
11) Boca Raton
13) Gulf Coast
14) Western (Davie)
15) Stoneman Douglas
Also Considered: Boone, Fleming Island, Forest, Gulf Coast, Martin County, Oviedo, Riverview-Sarasota, Steinbrenner, Viera, Wellington, West Orange
Have a great week at the games!
#TAFTAG – Take A Friend To A Game