Three weeks in and things are starting to come into focus. The schools at the top of the polls are starting to show some space between them and the 10-15 ranking level. There have been very few upsets so far. And by now, every school is getting back their winter sport participants, allowing more time together to train up the full offense and defense.
It was a huge night for games on Friday, as good as I recall over the 8 years. Of course that doesn’t happen if programs all around the state reached critical mass. But there is a flipside to this too. So many years it’s always been the same mantra . . . feeder programs lead to high school success. That’s great for the schools that benefit, but it also means that those who don’t have them are falling further behind and you can see it in the scores. There’s been more shutouts than I care to remember and the number of games I recap on Morning Coffee is trending more towards the one-name ones instead of the two-name ones, as I use one name for blow outs.
But then there’s days like Friday:
Belen – Gulliver
Western – Boca Raton
Berkeley Prep – Bishop Moore
Ponte Vedra – Lake Highland
Oxbridge – King’s Academy
Creekside – Oak Hall
Cardinal Mooney – Canterbury
Viera – Melbourne Central Catholic
St. Thomas Aquinas – Stoneman Douglas
Winter Park – Windermere
and on Saturday it was St. Edward’s – King’s Academy and Riverview-Sarasota – Gulf Coast
The only blowout of the bunch was the game I went to . . . which shows I’m not always smart . . . but 18 ranked teams out of the 30 from last week, pretty much ALL playing each other.
It is the Best of Times and it is the Worst of Times, together . . . if you look around the state.
It’s true pretty much everywhere. The MIAA is not full of lacrosse powerhouses, nor is Long Island or upstate NY or New Jersey or anywhere else.
Time to appreciate how far we’ve come, even if it doesn’t appreciably get much better from here.
Because there’s only so many feeder programs to go around.
The past two weeks I’ve talked about other sources for information around the state and when it comes to longevity and variety of approaches, no one has done it better over the years than Ray Carnicelli of Lax904, where he runs the Twitter handle, the YouTube channel North Florida, and has had a lengthy run on 1010XL/92.5 FM in Jacksonville on Sunday mornings with the radio broadcast This Week in North Florida Lacrosse.
I know it’s been around a long time because Ray’s show was the first radio interview I did, back in 2014 if my memory serves.
Ray is originally from Auburn, New York, a short drive from Geneva and he went to Cortland State. He’s not the most famous person from that historical city but he’s very well known in lacrosse circles, as he’s a constant voice for Jacksonville games on ESPN and other broadcasts. All the high school coaches in Northeast Florida know Ray and appreciate his insights and information.
Here’s a YouTube interview from 2018 with Jacksonville HC John Galloway:
Check in with his Twitter feed and the Sunday morning show!
When we talk about the lesser known programs we can certainly talk about St. Brendan, a school located basically right behind the outfield wall of the much better known lacrosse program Columbus High, in Miami.
When Doug Shanahan started the program at the school he provided us with a weekly blog of what it was like as the coach of the startup program and that set a tone for a few others to do the same, such as Mo Asif at Northside Christian.
I mentioning this because they are now in Season 6 of their program and it was reported to me that last week they finally won their first District win in the program’s history.
And it won’t be the only mention of them this week!
Because of this . . .
The Underdog Upset of the Week!
There were a few near misses this week.
Wellington held on to win in OT over the Pine School and Windermere played a tough game against Winter Park.
But when I saw St. Brendan defeat Archbishop McCarthy for their first win it was quite the surprise. AM was usually on my annual ‘Go See’ list because they were competitive in their Southwest Broward area. A game against Cypress Bay was one of my favorites.
But somewhere over the past few years they have fallen off quite a bit, but for St. Brendan to defeat them 7-4 was certainly an upset in my book.
If my math is correct, this is a 97-year old man describing his first college lacrosse game on the freshman team against the Syracuse freshman, in 1942!!! He could not get his helmet to fit on his head, so he ran out on the field without one and ended up with 8 stitches pretty much right away.
Not that I’m surprised that the other school would try to take advantage of it . . .
Every year, I got a few emails from parents wondering why their team, with a sparkling record, does not make the Polls that week. And pretty much every time it comes down to 3 simple words:
Strength of Schedule
I am not impressed by an 8-0 record against teams that are nowhere near the top.
As your school progresses in quality it is up to you to reach out to the established programs to schedule a game or two to test your true quality. Many of them are happy to play you. A few years ago I saw a perfect example of this when Viera asked to play home and home in successive years with St. Thomas Aquinas and I have FULL respect for both sides on that one for doing so. Viera was spanked pretty good the first year, with me in attendance, but I saw some nice talent and it was good for the parents, kids, etc., to see what it takes to move up the ladder to being worthy of being ranked.
It’s something that a lot of schools that are dominating their District but not venturing beyond their comfort zone needs to do to get the respect of the rest of the lacrosse community.
Now that Viera has ventured that way I’d love to see Cocoa Beach start to do so too starting next year. I’ve seen the records the last few years and there’s plenty of schools to contact starting in 2022. Viera and Cocoa Beach play March 26th and after Viera’s impressive win over Melbourne Central Catholic last week it’s time for other Treasure Coast schools to take on a few top programs, you can only get better for the experience.
One school that is on the cusp but not yet rankable, is Windermere High. I was able to watch the first quarter of the Winter Park game on the NFHS network and was impressed enough to want to see how the rest of the season plays out.
Teams in the Panhandle, like West Florida and Niceville, are kind of limited in testing themselves due to the enormous travel it would take. Even just scooting across towards Jacksonville is like a Miami team going to Sarasota, it’s just not easy. Maybe next year see if you can make an overnight Friday-Saturday trip east and test yourself that way.
Bolles and Nease are teams on the cusp of ranking too. Bolles defeated Nease and lost to Creekside, with Maclay and Oak Hall still left on the schedule. They’ll need to win one of those and run the table on the rest. Nease is also 5-1 and has a very tough schedule left, with Creekside tomorrow, plus Oak Hall, Lake Mary and Ponte Vedra.
Mitchell is 6-0 with their best win over Steinbrenner, and the rest of the season sees Alonso, Forest and Lakeland as their likely top games and that just isn’t enough. Plan to take on a few better programs next year!
Vero Beach is an interesting story. A Top 10 program in my early years covering the sport, they fell off badly over a few years but this year has come out of the gate at 4-0. On Thursday they travel to Boca Raton for a game at Saint Andrew’s and they still have King’s Academy, Pine Crest, Viera and St. Edward’s coming up. Plenty of opportunities to make some noise!
Holy Trinity Episcopal is 7-1 but lost badly to Vero Beach and the schedule isn’t there to be considered.
Boone is a little below the Top 15 but still has some games left to make a difference.
Hagerty is off to a 4-0 start but I need to see a quality win first.
Lake Howell is also off to a good start and hosts Lake Brantley on Tuesday in their best opportunity to get that signature win.
For the last two years they’ve been the dominant program in the state.
But they had to rally to win the game against Plant and they had to grind out a 6-4 win over Lake Highland Prep on Friday
And quietly sitting there, playing very well this year, is their old early round matchup bugaboo, Lake Mary.
Those teams would meet in the first round of the 2A brackets, from District’s 3 & 4.
It seems every 3-4 years Lake Mary HC Gary Robinson crafts a team and a strategy to take down the Sharks in the playoffs. Lake Mary’s schedule is a little lighter than normal this season without a Southeast opponent further south than St. Edward’s.
It’s about that time for Ponte Vedra to get really challenged by their nemesis . . .
Will this be the year?
As I mentioned on Morning Coffee, we are working on our very first Girls Poll!
Look for it in the next few days!
While you’re at it, if you have any questions you want answered reach out to me at email@example.com. I can try to answer them on Morning Coffee this week . . . 8:30am Mondays to Fridays!
Now, to lead us into this week’s polls, here’s a great song from the 70’s by Maxine Nightingale . . . I’m sure you’ll remember it kids because it’s been in movie soundtracks and commercials ever since then, including a prominent feature in the movie Slap Shot!
Many of the Also Considereds are mentioned above in the Teams that need to do more